JBER officials hold public meeting about fate of golf courses

Mike Nesper

Anchorage's three military golf courses have suffered a net loss of more than $2.2 million over the past five years. Something has to change. And Col. Brian Duffy is open to all suggestions.

That was the message from the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson commander Wednesday to a standing-room-only audience that packed the Moose Run clubhouse for a meeting with golfers concerned one of the courses may be closed.

"This is an immediate issue for the installation. This is an immediate issue for the community," Duffy told a room of about 100 people, including representatives from Alaska's U.S. congressional delegation.

The courses aren't used more than half the time in the summer, Duffy said. The three courses have an annual capacity of 115,000 rounds of golf each season, and more than half of those have gone unsold in the last three years, he said.

A little more than 47,000 rounds were played last summer, Duffy said, a nearly 35 percent decrease from a decade ago. The drop-off began 11 years ago, he said, after construction of a second course at Moose Run.

The numbers aren't sustainable, Duffy told the crowd.

"The continued question is how much further do we want to take this program into the red?" he said.

Golfers would need to play an additional 16,000 to 22,000 rounds played this season to break even, Duffy said. That's if operating expenses and greens fees remain at last year's levels.

"It's going to be a big challenge," he said.

Duffy said he's considering a variety of options, including potentially closing one of the courses.

He did not say which course, if any, that said a decision will be made in the coming months.

"I will make a decision before the start of play this year," he said. "I can't let it go any further."

He quashed rumors that the military has already decided to close Eagleglen Golf Course. Eagleglen is located near the Post Road gate near Ship Creek. The other two courses are at Moose Run.

Duffy said Eagleglen has done better than the Moose Run courses in the past three years, but it still lost nearly a half-million dollars in that time.

Most of the 90-minute meeting was open for public input and questions. A variety of suggestions were made, including reducing hours at the courses, increasing marketing and possibly leasing one of the courses to a non-military entity. No one spoke in favor of closing a course.

"If we have a problem here, I think everyone would be willing to help out," former Anchorage mayor Rick Mystrom said, to applause.

Alaska Golf Association executive director Jeff Barnhart offered to spearhead a committee designed to give Duffy public input.

Another public meeting will be held Thursday at the Moose Run clubhouse at 6 p.m.

Reach Mike Nesper at mnesper@adn.com or 257-4335.