Saturday, January 13, 2007

Update on Corpus Christi's Oso Muni

As we wrote a few days back, the City of Corpus Christi is considering giving Oso Beach Municipal Golf Course and about 121 additional surrounding acres to the University of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The school would then redevelop the land to expand its facilities.

There's an update in the Corpus Christi newspaper today in which Mayor Henry Garrett says for this deal to go through, two things have to happen:

1. The city must give - as opposed to sell - the land to the school.
2. The city must be able to replace Oso either by buying an existing course or by building a new one.

Garrett says he wants to put the matter to a vote. A ballot initiative on funding the replacement of Oso would focus on a bond issue worth to the tune of $7 million.

Will Corpus Christi voters approve a $7 million bond to fund a replacement public golf course? I grew up in Corpus Christi, and my initial reaction was "heck no." But I changed my opinion a little after reading something the article. Turns out that just two years ago, voters approved a $1.2 million bond for improvements to Oso.

That money has yet to be spent. So the vote would include two parts: approval of transferring that previously voted-on $1.2 million to a new course; and an additional $5.8 million bond.

Some excerpts:

With no money coming into city accounts if the land is deeded to the university, Corpus Christi would have to take on new debt to pay for another municipal golf course, Garrett said. A new or purchased course is expected to cost about $7 million, of which about $1.2 million could be paid for by allocating money earmarked for improvements to the Oso beach course approved in the 2004 bond election, Garrett said.

...

Voters would have the final say in the land deal because of the city's need to take on new debt, Garrett said. Their approval is necessary to reallocate the $1.2 million to a new city golf course and approve the roughly $5.8 million in new bonds, he said. A bond election could be tacked onto the April city elections, but would likely be held later, possibly in the fall.

...

When it comes to finding a replacement municipal course, the city's options are more open-ended, Garrett said. The city could buy an existing private course and transform it into a public course, or build a completely new course.

Garrett said he favors buying Pharaohs Golf Club, a semi-private course near the Oso course. It has been on the market for about a year. But other private courses haven't been ruled out for purchase, he said.

Building a new course hasn't been ruled out, Garrett said.

City Manager Skip Noe said a decision to transfer the land to the university would come before the city makes a decision on finding a replacement course. Garrett said without seeing numbers and talking with golf course consultants, buying a private course should be considered first.

"It would make more sense to upgrade a course already in place," he said.

Rick Robbins, president of the North Carolina-based Robbins & Associates International golf course development company, said one choice isn't necessarily cheaper between buying an existing course and building a new course.

"There are a lot of factors that enter into the making of a public golf course," Robbins said. "It's like buying a new car - you have to check all the oil leaks, maintenance records and upkeep history."

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