The proposed re-development of the Fort Sheridan golf course places the Lake County Board of Commissioners between a rock and a hard place. Today, fiscal responsibility confronts a legacy public promise. There is plenty of merit to honoring agreements made in 1996 which included a commitment to restore the existing golf course. But 2009 is not 1996. Golf play has been in steady decline for over a decade. Highland Park’s Sunset Valley golf course has lost over ¾ of a million dollars in the last 6 years. In the same timeframe, Lake County’s three municipal golf courses have seen revenues decline by over 1/3 and two of the three courses have operation costs in excess of fees.
The choice is not trivial. Fort Sheridan golf course re-development estimates are north of $25 million. And even if pricing concessions or project modifications were to bring real costs below estimates, ongoing operations together with debt service threaten to drive this endeavor into the red. In fact, losses might compromise the solvency of the fund that’s keeping the existing county municipal courses limping along. The risk is real.
It’s an unfortunate outcome from a lot of well-intentioned people who worked hard to make the entire US Army property transfer work, which by and large it has. But they had no crystal ball. And in today’s hard reality we believe that fiscal responsibility must trump prior commitments. Adjustments must be made and the golf course should not be built.
Letter to the Editor of Highland Park News (for 2/5/09 publishing)