Is Tumwater’s golf course still worth the cost?  

City Council discusses big picture and whether partnerships might help


Tumwater’s city council discussed whether the city-owned Tumwater Valley Golf Course is still worthy of funding amid its reported net loss in the past decade.

During the Council's Tuesday work session on January 25, Parks and Recreation Director Chuck Denney reported that although the course recorded all-time high revenues of $1,373,044 in 2021, it was still not enough to cover all the expenses, which amounted to $1,863,714.

"As activities go up, costs go up as well," Denney said. "More people using the facility, impacting everything… all of the things add up, from operations to maintenance, to increase our total expenses."

Councilmember Leatta Dahlhoff raised the question of whether there is a need to address the issue of the reported net loss over the years.

Due to the surge of people coming in and out of the golf course, Denney said, staff has been their "biggest cost." Hourly and seasonal employees run most of their operations, and "lowering the staff cost is next to impossible."

Denney noted that the popularity of The Valley could also be attributed to its activities that are not golf-related. The Valley has been serving as a park amid the need for outdoor areas, particularly during the pandemic. It serves as the venue for various special events in the city, such as fun runs, fireworks and family festivals, movie nights, and other outdoor activities.

Councilmember Angela Jefferson said although she loves the place and its contribution to the community, she's worried about the half-a-million-dollar net loss every year and asked if there is a way to do partnerships to reduce the expenses.

"This is an investment in the community, and I definitely see the benefits," Jefferson said. "But I just want to have that conversation."

Councilmember Joan Cathey said it is more important to highlight the community's benefits from the golf course than the funding that the city allots to it.

"What we are doing with this is not just golf. This is worth it. This is the kind of thing you want your city to be doing," Cathey said. "I just think we can't keep thinking just about money. I know we have to pay our bills, and we have to meet our obligations, but I would hate to see us change everything this golf course is doing for some of the most positive things that people see Tumwater for."

City Administrator John Doan said some of the values that the golf course provides to the city could not be measured in dollars, particularly its contribution to tourism, quality of life, and even flood mitigation in the city.


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