Will the Public Be Able to Play at the Trinity Forest Golf Course? One of the Many Things We Don't Know.

Categories: City Hall, Sports

FirstTee.jpg
First Tee of Greater Dallas
These kids will definitely be able to play at the Trinity Forest Golf Course. The city's not so sure about everyone else.
Pretty much everyone seems to be in agreement that turning an unused former landfill in southern Dallas into something is a good idea, and that, since the city will be paying to clean up the land up anyway, and because there aren't exactly hordes of developers itching to get get dirt flying on a former landfill in southern Dallas, that that something may as well be a golf course. As Joe noted on Friday, they're just skeptical that a fancy golf course is somehow going to transform southern Dallas.

The other thing that's fueling skepticism is the complete lack of specificity about how the course will operate. The press conference on Friday was larded with rhetoric about how the Trinity Forest Golf Course would be a humongous economic boost to southern Dallas and turn the city into major golfing destination, but it was light on details. City staff provided a few at the council's Economic Development Committee meeting this morning.

We learned that the city is roughly 100 percent certain it will land the Byron Nelson Champioship, seeing as City Manager Ryan Evans' presentation indicates that securing the tournament is a prerequisite for moving forward with the course. We also learned that the city will continue to own the land on which the course sits, which will be leased by the nonprofit formed to run the course for $10,000 per year.

As for who will get to play there, we're still not quite sure.

Mayor Mike Rawlings and city officials have made it clear that the course will be membership-based, but the implication all along has been that it will be semi-private. In golfing parlance, that typically means that non-members can call and set up a tee time. But then Rawlings told the Morning News that public access to the course will be "limited," which implies that may not be the case.

Becky Mayad, who's handling public relations for the course, directed us to the briefing materials for today's committee meeting. Those say that the nonprofit will "provide for and insure that not less than 25 percent of annual rounds of golf will be available to charitable tournaments and events, educational and youth programming, and/or coordinated public play." She added that the terms will be fleshed out in the lease agreement.

Some fuzziness is understandable given that the project is in its early stages. But with the City Council set to decide Wednesday whether to give the project the go-ahead, and with actual work expected to start next spring, things are far enough along for the city, which is, after all, committing $12 million in taxpayer money to the project in return for less than I pay in rent for a two-bedroom apartment, to say for sure whether the average Dallas golfer will be able to just play a round.

At least we know the needy children at The First Tee, an organization that introduces kids to golf, will be taken care of, as they so often seem to be when the city embarks on an expensive, nonessential project. In the case of the neighboring Texas Horse Park it was needy and disabled children. It's remarkable how closely the city's interests always line up with those of the children.


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17 comments
Dommerdog
Dommerdog

Thanks to the nice lady whose letter to the editor was published in today's DMN reminding us of River Lakes Country Club (with pool and golf course) which flooded so many times the city finally shut it down and demolished it in 2005.  What is it they call doing the same thing with the expectation of a different result?

mcdallas
mcdallas

Why all the questions?  They said it would be "world-class".  Isn't that enough for you people?

s.aten
s.aten

So where does the city have $12 million just waiting for a golf course?   This is a city that does not have enough money to maintain exisitng parks, buildings, libraries, streets, catch dogs etc and suddenly we have $12 million buring a hole in our pocket.     How long has this non-profit been in existence do they have the managerial capacity to manage a golf course?

darrd
darrd

You're not going to have the same group of citizens to ask the right questions, file the FOI's, meet with council members as we have done for the past two years with regards to the gas drilling issue. This is just another disaster in the making with Mary Suhm's fingerprints all over it. It is sort of pitiful to see how she throws it to Mike as the salesman to the media and residents. I guarantee that this deal has as much intrigue and back room dealing as the gas issue continues to have and unless some residents want to take it on, or perhaps The Dallas Observer wants to ball up and file those FOI's, this deal will go forward.

Guesty
Guesty

Some new questions:

(1) How long is the lease?  

(2) Do the improvements revert back to the city at the end of the lease (I don't see how they wouldn't, but need to check the fine print)?  

(3) Assuming this deal is financed, will the City or the land guarantee or secure the note?

If the lease is relatively short and the improvements revert back to the City, this could be a very good deal even at nominal rent.  For example, if the lease is only 20 years, the City gets a free golf-course in 20 years for letting the non-profit use the land for 20 years.  That's probably a very good deal for the city.  My guess is that the lease is very long, meaning the City will lock itself into essentially letting the property be used for free as long as a golf-course is there.  This may be fair (otherwise the land goes completely unused), but it obviously makes a big difference in terms of how good a deal the city is getting.  Will people be crying out 100 years from now about some private golf-club getting city land rent free?  It all depends on the deal they strike now.

I'd guess one reason the City is being squirrely on the details about who will get access to the place is that the golf club will keep its options open until it's thoroughly tested the waters in marking memberships.  If the non-profit wants to sell enough memberships to pay for the entire thing outright (e.g. 1000 memberships at $40,000), then it probably will have to promise nearly exclusive access to members.  If, on the other hand, it can only sell enough memberships to cover a small fraction of the cost (e.g. 250 memberships at $25,000), it will probably have to keep the vast majority of tee-times open to the public to break even.  The club itself is likely to market the first option to see how many people it can get to bite on a membership before reverting to plan b.  In other words, no one will know how many tee-times will be available to the public until the golf club has marketed the club to potential members for some time and has effectively exhausted its efforts at getting new commitments     

BenS.
BenS.

Half a dozen architects have given presentations to the city, I believe one or two more might still be working up ideas for the course.  I hear the city will make a decision on the design and architect in mid-January. There are two other AT&T courses in Texas at TPC San Antonio. The initation fees run $15,000 to $40,000 and dues are roughly $500 a month. Expect the same here? After all it's a world class course.  

Has the city gotten a signoff yet from the Corps of Engineers? In order to bring it out of the floodplain in some areas a monster amount of fill dirt will be required. The whole mitigation and floodway issues are tricky ones. I think everyone is interested in seeing the old landfills fixed. The city purchased them in 2008 and has dragged their feet fixing them. 

The proposed concrete bike path is a really bad idea. It should not be built. The city cannot maintain the current Joppa Preserve trail on the opposing bank of the river. The city as an entity is a poor trustee of the land and projects they built with the 1998 bonds. There is no demand for a bike trail, horse trail or walking trail. Don't build it. The amount of trees knocked down to build the "AT&T Trail" would destroy hundreds of trees. Same thing happened with the Buckeye Trail when it was paved.

albert.finney000
albert.finney000

As has been pointed out, golf clubs (meaning clubs, not clubs) are experiencing declining membership and use, so who cares? It's like decrying the rising price of bacon because of the impact on the Jewish and Muslim communities. Concern yourselves with real issues, like why this post took five attempts on an iPhone, or possibly six

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Who cares who can play on it--how exactly are they going to pay for it?

I'm all for it if they re-allocate the horse park money. But $12 million builds a championship-caliber golf course? Suuuuuure it does. That's $666,666 per hole, not even including clubhouse, support buildings, and everything else. I'd bet you can't even move the dirt and do all the plantings for that much, much less paths, bunkers, water features, sprinklers...

Dommerdog
Dommerdog

BTW, it was in southern Dallas, too.

mcdallas
mcdallas

@Guesty Your questions reek of common sense, courtesy, accountability and all-around good will.  Therefore they will be ignored.

Guesty
Guesty

@Scruffygeist We are lead to believe that the $12 million from the city won't even be used for that.  Most of its is remediation cost that will be necessary to make the land usable for anything and has already been ordered by the state.  I still am not entirely comfortable this is true.  

Depending on the quality of the course and how easily it will be to take advantage of the current topography, it looks to me like $20-30 million will build a top-flight golf course (based on PGA stats, etc.), but the cost for the clubhouse, etc. could drive the total cost as high as $60 million according to the City.  Presumably the cost of building the actual course, clubhouse, etc. will be financed and the debt will paid for through a combination of: (1) membership fees; (2) green fees from non-members; and (3) the Byron Nelson.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Guesty @Scruffygeist of course a "ground lease" would pass all those costs to the lessee.  It's probably the best way for the city to structure this, and would explain the remediation budget.

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