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Sun City Center sees golf decline

SUN CITY CENTER — With golf course membership flagging and course operators in bankruptcy, two local task forces have been studying ways to shore up one of Sun City Center's biggest attractions.

The first Golf Course Task Force was formed by the community association after WCI Communities Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last fall.

The task force sent out proposal requests to 16 consultants to see how much they would charge to study the value and maintenance costs of the North Lakes, Sandpiper and possibly the Caloosa Greens executive courses.

The task force reported back to the board in January, and the board is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to hire the recommended consultant, said Ed Barnes.

Barnes, the association's new president and head of both task forces, said the community association wants to be prepared in case WCI suddenly needs to sell off the golf courses.

WCI, which built much of Sun City Center and runs its golf courses, reassured residents it would maintain its seven golf courses during its financial reorganization.

The association board became involved because it holds the right of first refusal on two of the courses if WCI puts them on the market, which it hasn't.

The second task force is charged with finding ways to increase membership and use of the golf courses, Barnes said.

"The aging population plays less than before," Barnes said. Younger residents moving in recently aren't as interested and enjoy many other hobbies, he added.

"Golfing has pretty much gone down in Sun City Center quite a bit in the last 15 years," he said.

The task force is exploring ways to increase use among current members and ways to find new members, including those living outside of Sun City Center in nearby communities such as Valencia Lakes.

The second task force is expected to complete its report by March 31, he said.

Every resident of Sun City Center has a stake in the fate of the golf courses, he said. The golf courses define the community and play a role in property values.

"If there were some reason for these courses to go away because they weren't viable or making money, we'd see that as having a significant effect on the community as a whole," Barnes said. "This is a community effort to keep those courses viable."

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or 661-2441.

Sun City Center sees golf decline 02/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 5, 2009 3:30am]
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