The historic Rockwood Golf Course is one step closer to getting a makeover with the approval Tuesday night by the City Council to fund improvements in part with $1.7 million in gas royalties.
Rockwood, which hasn’t had a major update since it was built more than 75 years ago, will be redesigned with new greens, tees, fairways, irrigation and drainage systems, and new golf cart paths. The total cost is $4.8 million.
The renovation received $2 million from the 2014 bond package, which voters approved in May, and the additional $1.7 million in unrestricted gas lease revenue was approved by the council Tuesday. The rest of the money will come from gas royalties dedicated to parks, said Nancy Bunton, assistant director of parks and community services.
The vote in favor of the spending was 8-0. Mayor Betsy Price was absent.
Councilman Sal Espino, whose district includes the course, which is just northwest of downtown, hopes the makeover will also spur revitalization of the area along Jacksboro Highway.
“Rockwood Golf Course can be and should be our showcase golf course,” Espino said. “We can generate enough rounds through folks who come into town for conventions, it is centrally located, we have a great partnership with the First Tee, and there has been a lot of investment in Rockwood Golf.”
Bunton hopes the update will make the course more competitive with private courses and help dig the municipal golf program, which is supposed to be self-sustaining, out of a deep financial hole.
Mayor Betsy Price was absent Tuesday, but the remaining council members also unanimously voted Tuesday to erase an $8.7 million debt the golf program owed the general fund.
Writing off the deficit is an accounting measure because the general fund has covered the gaps each year since 2002, when a steep increase in the number of courses built in the Metroplex, coupled with a decline in rounds played, forced the city to subsidize golf.
Of the four city-owned courses — Meadowbrook in the east, Pecan Valley in the southwest, Sycamore in the southeast and Rockwood — Pecan Valley makes the most money, bringing in $488,695 in 2013. Meadowbrook was the only other course that made money in 2013, bringing in about $2,300.
The proposed budget for fiscal 2015 has allocated $850,000 to subsidize the golf program, which Espino likened to municipal pools and athletic fields.
“I think all great cities have to offer that, it is about quality of life. … It is all about being a world-class city, so we have to invest in all the amenities,” Espino said.
Bunton said the city subsidizing the program in advance helps with financial planning.
“In the past we have always been instructed when we submit the budget that we have to submit a balanced budget. In order to get to the balanced budget, we had to add additional rounds to show additional revenue,” Bunton said. “What this allows us to do is look more realistically at what we can do in the total number of rounds based on the fees that we charge.”
The proposed remodeling of Rockwood could stabilize the program by taking the course from losing $200,000 a year to making about $300,000, Bunton said.
Rockwood would close for remodeling in November 2015 and is expected to reopen in September 2016.
The driving range and the short course, the River’s Edge, will remain open, Bunton said.
“The whole goal is not to have the city subside us for the next 30 years,” Bunton added.
“My hope is that 10 years from now we are breaking even or we are making money and we don’t need a subsidy anymore.”
Game room vote delay
The council delayed voting on a proposed ordinance that would restrict where game rooms can operate in planned development zoning and require them to register with the city as an indoor amusement facility. The ordinance would also prohibit game rooms within 300 feet of a residential area, church, school or hospital.
The council chambers were filled Tuesday night with residents urging harsher regulations than proposed and questioning how the city will enforce it, if passed.
“We don’t want anyone to feel like we are trying to rush something,” said Councilman Danny Scarth, who prompted the proposal. He made the motion to delay, and not to let the city issue certificates of occupancy for indoor amusement uses during the delay.
Game rooms are legal if they offer only noncash prizes, but officials say they are hard to regulate and can attract criminals.
Brandon Bennett, the city’s director of code compliance, estimated that he will need two additional senior enforcement officers to regulate the game rooms, at a first-year cost including equipment of $209,410. That cost is not yet included in the proposed fiscal 2015 budget. The second year would cost $158,830, he said.
Water rates rise
Water rates for the typical Fort Worth resident will increase by $2.11 a month and sewer rates by $1.20 in the next fiscal year, the council unanimously voted Tuesday.
The increase continues a five-year effort by the city to make the Water Department less dependent on residents’ water usage for its revenue.
For residents with water meters that are 5/8 inch or 3/4 inch, the rate is increasing from $9 to $10 a month. For residents with a 1-inch meter, the rate is going up from $14.75 to $18.15 a month.
Residents who use more water will get higher increases as part of an effort to encourage conservation. An efficient water user’s bill could increase as little as $1.40 a month, whereas the bill for one who uses a lot of water could go up $7.52 a month.
This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.