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Salt Lake City Council ready to pull the plug on Wingpointe Golf Course

Mayor's office will have to make decision on closing facility for good during the next 6 weeks

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City's Wingpointe Golf Course has been on life support ever since it shuttered in 2015, costing tens of thousands in city funds while Mayor Jackie Biskupski's administration sought ways to salvage the course.

But now, the City Council is pulling the plug.

That is, after spending a final $150,000 in an owed debt for leasing the land from the airport.

While grudgingly reviewing the proposed budget adjustment this week, the City Council voted informally to only support it on the condition it will be the last chunk of money Wingpointe ever gets in city funds. The budget adjustment is tentatively scheduled for council action Dec. 5.

"I think it's very unfortunate that we've gotten to this point," said Councilman Charlie Luke. "But that fact that we are here, as disappointed as I am, it is irresponsible to think that we're going to see something different."

Councilman James Rogers, who called for the straw poll to oppose any more future investment in Wingpointe, said it's time for the costly issue to be put to rest.

"We worked with the prior administration and now this administration, but it just seems like it’s that never-ending rat hole we just keep throwing money down," Rogers said.

The $150,000 budget adjustment would pay the airport $72,000 for leasing the property during 2017, and an additional $77,500 to extend the lease through the first half of 2018.

Had the $150,000 lease payment not have been subject to a contract that could jeopardize the city's assurances with the Federal Aviation Administration, Luke said he would "absolutely not" support any more money for Wingpointe.

The City Council last year agreed to set aside more than $60,000 to maintain the course while Mayor Jackie Biskupski's administration worked to bring Wingpointe Golf Course back from the grave — but, regardless, the greens still dried up and fell into disrepair, and the administration estimated that nearly $900,000 would be needed to reopen the course.

And even then, the golf course's land lease issues with the airport would need to be overcome first.

Wingpointe's land belongs to the Salt Lake City International Airport, which bought the site in the '70s and has since been leasing it to the city for $1 a year before a FAA audit declared in 2012 that the airport needed to charge fair market rate for the property.

Since then, the city agreed to pay an increasing yearly lease to the airport, beginning with $55,000 in 2015, which would gradually increase to a full market rate price of $150,000 next year.

Biskupski's administration has been working with Rep. Chris Stewart to pass a law to make an amendment to the lease agreement possible, but the effort has stalled due to "gridlock" in Congress, Patrick Leary, the mayor's chief of staff, told the council.

"That legislation is pending in Washington but there’s nothing, unfortunately, that’s getting done in Washington right now," Leary said. "So we’re on hold."

Biskupski said Stewart "ran into roadblocks with the current administration," leaving any chance that the lease issue would be sorted out in a timely manner unlikely.

"I think we are finally at a point where it is probably not going to happen,” Biskupski said.

If by some chance the lease issue is overcome, Leary said in an interview Thursday the city could still pursue private investment to open the course — but he acknowledged its unlikely the issue will be sorted out before the next lease payment is due next year.

Leary said it appears the mayor's office will need to make the decision to close Wingpointe once and for all during the next six weeks or so.

"It's not over yet," he added, but acknowledged the odds don't look good.

Leary noted, however, there is a "bright side," as administrators continue to work to make the city's struggling golf fund more viable. The mayor's newly appointed golf director has been working to strengthen the business models of the city's remaining golf courses, he said.

"We're very optimistic about the direction we're headed," Leary said.