TREASURE ISLAND — City recreation staff is calling for a mulligan — a golf term describing a do-over or replay without counting the effort — after telling commissioners the city’s 9-hole, par-3 greenspace at Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis could be put to better use.
During a July 20th work session, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Justin Tremble told commissioners most city residents do not utilize Treasure Bay to play golf. Over the last three years the golf course has averaged a net operating loss of $100,000. Based on the last 3-year average, 61 percent of golf course transactions are attributed to nonresidents, and 39 percent to residents.
In a report on how the site could be better utilized, Tremble advised commissioners Treasure Bay is “not a flagship waterfront recreation facility right now.”
The biggest reason, he said, is residents’ low utilization of its golf course, with a majority of users coming from outside the city.
Commissioner Saleene Partridge took exception with Tremble’s characterization that golf is on the decline on the island, calling his comments “a bit cheeky.”
Partridge added she doesn’t appreciate recreation staff putting out information with the objective of leading residents to promote their personal standpoint.
She told Tremble, “I didn’t appreciate leading information in one direction about the decreased interest in golf,” suggesting his statistics come from information garnered about larger 18-hole courses.
Some residents have suggested there’s an agenda to close the golf course down.
“We should evaluate what the community truly wants and make a decision,” Partridge said.
Tremble told the commission the Treasure Bay facility is the city’s largest recreational space. The golf course is 481,103 square feet, more than all the rest of the city’s current park spaces combined.
“The course has been the topic of discussion for several years due to many factors, such as low utilization by Treasure Island residents, high maintenance needs, inconsistent year-round usage, environmental concerns and the general decline of interest in the sport of golf,” Tremble said in his report. “Because of this, the Treasure Bay recreational facility’s golf course is an optimal space for other inclusive passive recreational opportunities identified by the community in the city’s Strategic Plan and Master Park Plan.”
Treasure Bay should emphasize its goal of becoming the city’s flagship waterfront recreational facility, the assistant parks director noted. For example, the city has already received partial funding to create a living shoreline and restoration of a hazard pond. Treasure Bay’s passive recreational activities could include walking trails, picnic pavilions, exercise areas, and kayak and paddle board launches. An emphasis could be providing courts for the growing sport of pickleball and multi-use greenspace areas.
“If Treasure Bay golf course is to remain in its current function, it will require significant investments in the next few years that are currently unfunded,” Tremble told commissioners. “These investments include, but are not limited to, a new irrigation system with isolation systems for tees, fairways, greens, roughs and non-play areas.”
The course would also need moisture-sensing technology, a new reservoir to allow for consistent pressure, a complete redesign including extensive grading for drainage, base topography, surrounding tree roots and shade reduction, and a reconfiguration of entry and exit points, he advised.
However, if passive recreation amenities were added to the facility, the 9-hole course may be “drastically limited or eliminated to accommodate the new facilities,” he said. In one example, Tremble said, a practice area for putting or chipping may be retained to keep the golf element at the facility.
However, adding amenities such as pickleball courts, pavilions and kayak rental and launch would provide new revenue opportunities, he said. In addition, those amenities would eliminate the need to use greens- and fairways-grade fertilizers, herbicides, and fungicides along the waterfront site. These chemicals have contributed to the degradation of Treasure Bay’s stormwater ponds, which the city now aims to restore.
Treasure Bay, at 10315 Paradise Boulevard, also boasts two asphalt and eight clay tennis courts, one regulation basketball court, two shuffleboard courts, a sand volleyball court and three pickleball courts.
The city will hold two town halls in September to solicit community comments, at a date to be announced, before the issue returns to the City Commission for a decision on the future of Treasure Bay and its golf course.