Anoka County is betting on a turnaround over the next three years at a Lino Lakes golf course that’s bleeding red ink.
Chomonix Golf Course had a net operating deficit of nearly $642,000 from 2014 to 2018, said Jeff Perry, the county parks director. It also needs about $1 million in upgrades to the clubhouse, golf course and equipment over the next five years, leaving taxpayers potentially on the hook for more than $1.6 million to keep the course going over that time.
That doesn’t sit well with county officials, who say they don’t want to use property tax dollars to subsidize golfing at a course with declining participation. Last year, the course logged 24,257 golf rounds, down 31 percent from 35,214 in 2009.
The head-turning numbers have touched off a debate in recent weeks about the future of the course. That prompted a proposal from Board Chairwoman Rhonda Sivarajah to keep the course open at least three more years to see if it can be brought back from the financial brink and at least break even.
“It’s going to take some time to really turn that tide, but I’m confident with the right things in place we can do that,” said Sivarajah, who represents eastern Anoka County, including Lino Lakes.
The county parks committee will take a look at Sivarajah’s proposal Tuesday at its 9 a.m. meeting at Bunker Hills Activity Center in Andover. It includes plans to bring in new management to oversee the clubhouse and course, as well as possibly hiring a golf industry consultant to help right-size Chomonix’s operations.
The golf course was built as a private nine-hole course in 1969, Perry said. Anoka County took it over in 1975 and expanded it to 18 holes in the 1980s.
The course, tucked within the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Reserve, has a passionate following. Talk about repurposing it as an outdoor recreation area with trails, an archery range and picnic pavilion was met with mounting efforts by residents and Lino Lakes leaders to save it.
Chomonix supporters have launched an online petition and set up a “Stop Chomonix Golf Course Closing” Facebook page.
If the course was closed “it would be a huge loss,” said Brian Knox, who lives on the golf course. “It’s often been called a hidden gem.”
Knox, 64, said he bought his property next to Chomonix more than a decade ago after falling in love with the scenic course, which is flush with wildlife and mature trees.
Knox said he suspects a short playing season last year and recent work on two holes have put a dent in revenue. Still, the sudden news about the course’s troubles and uncertain future has upset many, he said. “It was a total shock,” he said.
Lino Lakes officials said they also were taken off-guard by word that the county was weighing the course’s fate.
“That caused a lot of consternation,” City Administrator Jeff Karlson said. He said Lino Lakes was considering making an offer on the course if the county pursues plans to close and repurpose it.
“We think it’s a great amenity for this community, and we don’t want to see it used for any other purpose,” Karlson said. “We want to see it as a golf course.”