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Municipal courses thrive despite economy

Local publicly owned links maintaining profits through recession

To some, an afternoon on the links is as about as classically American as a Saturday spent at a baseball game.

There are apparently quite a few of those folks right here in the Capital District. From Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs to the Stadium Golf Club in Schenectady and beyond, the landscape is peppered with options for golfers, enough to make it tough to take an exact count, and many of those courses are run by local governments.

This situation has been of great interest to residents of the Town of Bethlehem in recent weeks. The town had entered a bid with the Bank of America in hopes of obtaining the property, and although it was not the winner, that does not preclude the town from purchasing it from the buyer in the future.

Some have questioned whether the town would be able to run the course profitably. Bethlehem already runs Colonial Acres, but it's a small, 9-hole par-3 course that the town pays only $1 per year to lease. Neighboring communities have long had their own operations, though, and even in these tough times, leaders in these municipalities generally say their courses support themselves and are a great asset.

Neighboring towns turn profits

Much has been made of whether the Town of Bethlehem would be able to recover the cost of buying Normanside. In the Town of Guilderland, the recent acquisition of Western Turnpike Golf Course has not only been a break-even investment, but once the loan is paid off, it will return a tidy profit for the town, said Supervisor Kenneth Runion.

The revenues that the course generate have paid the expense of the course and the personnel, as well as the cost of the principal and the interest on the bonds that we had when we purchased the course, he said.

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