Committee to review report calling for millions to upgrade course

Seventy five golfers were out early this morning at Tony Butler Golf Course supporting the Harlingen Rotary Club to raise funds for local service projects

HARLINGEN — A committee will help local leaders take action on a national consultant’s report calling on the city to consider millions of dollars worth of improvements to try to pull the Tony Butler Golf Course out of the hole.

This past week, city commissioners selected city and school board members to make up the committee, charged with helping them respond to the National Golf Foundation’s 97-page report released this month.

“The purpose is simply to have a group of community leaders representing the business community and the hospitality community and other stakeholders review the report and offer opinions on how they think the city should respond to the report,” Mayor Chris Boswell said.

“We want different eyes to look at the report to get another perspective — use them as a sounding board.”

The committee will consider the city’s finances when coming up with its recommendation, City Manager Dan Serna said.

“The intent is to have a committee of community members look at that (report) and all aspects of its content and the budget information and come back with a recommendation to the City Commission regarding the golf course and its operations,” Serna said. “Actually, it will be the mayor and the city council that will make the ultimate decision.”

City Secretary Amanda Elizondo said she was asking those selected whether they could participate in the committee.

Among those selected was Jesse Robles, chairman of the Harlingen Community Improvement Board, which could help fund golf course improvements, Boswell said, adding the city’s Economic Development Corporation would not fund upgrades.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners tried to select golfers to take part in the committee.

Golfers selected for the committee include Mickey Boland, the EDC’s president; Eladio Jaimez, a Harlingen school board trustee; Daniel Araiza, a member of the Community Improvement Board; and Carlos Cortez, a member of the city’s Golf Course Advisory Board.

The golfers’ understanding of the game will help city officials better interpret the consultant’s recommendation, said Tim Elliott, owner of Tim’s Custom Golf who was appointed to the Golf Course Advisory Board during Wednesday’s meeting.

In the past, the city had not included golfers’ input in coming up with decisions shaping the golf course, Elliott said.

“The biggest issue is you got non-golfers trying to make golf decisions,” he said.

Now, he said, Boland, Araiza, Cortez and Jaimez will help other committee members better understand the consultant’s report.

“They understand what the report means,” Elliott said of the golfers. “They’ve played (the golf course) so they understand what the National Golf Foundation is talking about. They’ll be able to enlighten the non-golfers of what (the report) means.”

Others selected for the committee include Scott Allex and Frank Castellanos, members of the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce; Rex Warren, a member of the Harlingen Convention & Visitors Bureau’s advisory board; and Adele Clinton-Solis, a member of the city’s Parks Advisory Board.

Earlier this year, the city contracted the consultants to conduct the $22,000 study aimed at determining ways to boost the golf course’s revenues.

For about five years, the city-owned golf course has operated in the red.

Since 2013, the course has lost about $1 million.

Now, it’s apparently on track to lose at least $500,000 a year if the city fails to improve operations.

In the report, the consultants recommend as much as $3.7 million to $7 million worth of improvements, along with a boost in players’ fees.

Even after pumping millions, the golf course would likely continue to operate in the red.

Options include hiring a private company to operate the golf course as part of a public-private partnership.