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“Things change, times change, the needs of the community change” Bob Becker, City Park CEO

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. But perhaps the change this community needs is a little more park and a little less golf course in City Park.

In August of 2005, Katrina’s floodwaters shut down the golf courses in City Park that had claimed more than half of the available land in the park for generations. Yet the disaster had an unexpected silver lining: areas of the park to which the non-golfing public had been denied access since the 1950’s were discovered, welcomed, and enjoyed.

Now, rather than recognize the changing desires of the community for more passive green space, less development, and more affordable recreational options, City Park management is proposing to use $46 million dollars of public and private money to build brand new and expanded “PGA-quality” golf courses and a new clubhouse.

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Surprise! Bayou District Foundation is the choice

In case you haven’t heard the news (wouldn’t it be nice if we had some actual newspapers in this town?): according to Bob Becker, and coming as no surprise to anyone, the Bayou District Foundation has received the “highest point score” of the three bidders to develop and manage the new Phase I golf plan in City Park, and that now “negotiations” were being conducted. He did not state a date when the contract would actually be awarded. We can only hope that part of these negotiations involve the question of how City Park and the taxpayers will be protected when the new course ends up a financial failure, as has happened with the TPC Louisiana golf course that has to be bailed out by our tax dollars, or the Audubon Park Golf Course, which also loses hundreds of thousands of dollars a year despite being built with public funds and by an organization that receives a third of its revenues from tax dollars (see Save Audubon Park for more information).

Regarding their scoring system, it is described on page 9 of the RFP, and states that… 

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City Park Golf Revenue Numbers

Historically, Golf was the big earner for City Park, not surprising when you consider that four golf courses consumed over half of the park. One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the pending new golf course construction and management contract remains the money: specifically, how much will the park receive, and what happens if the glowing income projections for the new course fall short, as they have done so extremely at the Audubon Park Golf Course. We thought it appropriate to outline City Park Golf’s historical income figures as a way to shed light on the numbers that any new contractor should be expected to meet or exceed.


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Three proposals received for the development and management of the golf courses.

In January 2010, the City Park Improvement Association issued an RFP for the development and management of the golf courses that was due by Thursday, February 11, 2010. Proposals were received from Billy Caspar Golf, Honours Golf, and the Bayou District Foundation. 

Comparing the cost of the proposals to City Park, in a nutshell
The “City Park Golf Consolidated Income Statement” from the City park website (attached here), prepared by Economic Research Associates for the original $46 million golf master plan, shows anticipated income from various scenarios, including the current 36-hole Phase I plan. Using their numbers from the 36-hole plan at year five and above of operation (to be generous), projected at approximately $1.1 million as the average net operating income, the BDF’s proposed compensation of 40% of operating profits is $440,000/year, compared to a proposed $200,000/year for Honours Golf and a proposed $132,000/year plus unspecified “incentive fees” for Billy Caspar Golf.

Comparing the cost of playing 18 holes with cart on the new course for residents, in a nutshell
City Park’s projected potential fees: $50-$95
Billy Caspar Golf proposed fees: $49-$78
Honours Golf proposed fees: $49-$99
Bayou District Foundation proposed fees: $50-95City Park Golf Consolidated Income Statement

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Report of the May 26, 2009 City Park Improvement Association Board Meeting

Update March 11, 2010: In an article in today’s Times-Picayune about the golf courses, it becomes abundantly clear that City Park officials are continuing to plan for a $46 million, 2-phase, 3-course golf behemoth in City Park, despite their admission at the May 26, 2010 meeting, both verbally and in print, that “it is highly likely that the Park will only be able to proceed with the Phase I plan in the near future. No other public funding for golf is currently available or programmed and a Phase II will cost more than $21 million dollars”.(page 12/17 of the attached document)

Although the outcome of the CPIA Board vote and the expansion of golf in City Park was never really in doubt, thanks to the outcry by concerned citizens who worked tirelessly to strip away the veil of secrecy from the CPIA planning process, the Board was forced to make a number of concessions regarding their proposed plans for golf in City Park, none of which have been mentioned in the media articles published since the meeting.

An unchastened but clearly on the defensive CPIA Board was forced to back down from their consideration of a plan to lease away half of the public park under their stewardship in a no-bid transaction to a private developer for a term of 50-90 years.

City Park Meeting Document distributed at the May, 26, 2010 meeting.

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Featured ArticlesThe Bayou District Foundation’s Proposed Land Grab
While the loss of public park land in City Park’s version of the revised 2007 Master Plan is disturbing, it pales in comparison to the Bayou District Foundation’s “Conceptual Master Plan” for City Park, which is downright chilling. Basically, the entirety of City Park north of I-610 would become an extension of their new housing development across the bayou. The North Course would cease to exist, its land used for the BDF’s new softball and soccer complexes, the Police Stables are no more, and the Couturie Forest is shrunken and surrounded by golf courses.How inconvenient that so many critics, lowly New Orleans residents all, have interfered with their plans to take over all of this “underutilized” public property for their private development concerns.

From their “Highlights of the Bayou District of New Orleans”, they claim their plan is to:
-Redevelop approximately 1,300 acres of New Orleans City Park, the country’s second-largest urban park;
-Plans include two 18-hole championship golf courses, a nine-hole executive golf course, a First Tee Learning Facility and eight baseball, softball and soccer fields;
-Golf facility will be affordable to New Orleans residents and tourists;
-The revitalized course will be the home of the PGA Tour supported First Tee of New orleans and will be capable of hosting local, regional and national golf and other sports events;
-A portion of the proceeds from the golf operations will be available to support the vocational, pre-school, after school and other programs within the new Bayou District residential community, an estimated $1,500,000 annually;
-The Fore!Kids Foundation will manage the golf operations and New Orleans City Park will manage the recreation. >>

Reinventing Public Housing: Is the Atlanta Model Right for Your City?
Editor’s Note: This article is being reprinted partly because it makes clear that golf and golf courses are simply NOT a necessary or even typical component of reproducing the ‘Atlanta Model’ of public housing redevelopment anywhere in the United States, despite all the rhetoric from the Bayou District Foundation and the state and local politicians that support them. There is absolutely no reason that control of public golf courses should be tied into the successful redevelopment of public housing projects in general and the St Bernard housing project in particular. >>

Audubon Golf Course: Lessons for City Park?
Reprinted from and courtesy of
In honor of Bob Becker’s current foray into the world of constructing expensive new golf courses, this time in his role as CEO of City Park rather than VP of Planning for the Audubon Institute, a job he held until July 2001, we thought it was time to remind people ONCE AGAIN of how this one turned out. Who knows: some day, reality may prevail over hype and misinformation. >>

Legislature set to bail out struggling golf course
$9 million plan saves La. money, backers say

Among the factors driving the deal is a clause in an old contract that could allow the 250-acre site to revert to the private donors of the land unless the course is maintained by professional golf tournament operators.

Proponents of the deal have pitched it as a money-saver for the state, a conclusion they reached by assuming that the current state subsidy would expand over a seven-year period at a cost of $14.6 million. But the current subsidy, which has been widely criticized, is expiring this year and no such obligation exists for that cost-saving comparison. >>

“Due diligence”?! Golf and money figures just never add up.
Responding to May 21 Times Picayune article

This is basically the same revenues as the old courses pre-Katrina, higher expenses as would be expected, but not a whole lot of improvement in net income to show for it all. At year 5, there is an inexplicable increase in rounds played, which trigger an equally inexplicable but steadily increasing rise in revenues and net income.

However, even these low income figures in year 3 are based on 56,000 rounds of golf being played at City Park, 38,000 at the old North Course and $24,000 at the new championship course! In Louisiana, the average number of rounds per course in 2007 and 2008 was under 22,000/year; even at the TPC Louisiana course, reaching 26,000 rounds in 2007 and 2008 was considered a highly successful number (From a Times-Picayune article of 4-19-09, “Going for the Green”).

From where and with whom are these remarkable rounds of golf going to materialize? There is no explanation attached for how these numbers were derived, and they seem absurd… yet we are supposed to believe that the City Park Board has practiced “due diligence” by accepting them? >>

Bayou District Foundation considers City Park ripe for the picking
An “underutilized” resource, the favorite catch phrase of developers

As with so many other aspects of life in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina totally reconfigured the picture. City Park’s golf courses were largely shattered. Irrigation, piping, electrical and sanitation facilities were all destroyed by the floodwaters of Katrina. Out of state contractors hacked up many of the golf courses oak trees and the courses were left with large gouges and craters where heavy equipment had settled.

Out of this mess, the Bayou District Foundation leadership saw an opportunity. What if City Park could combine some of its disaster relief funds with private dollars provided by Bayou District Foundation and create a world class public golf facility? This would solve the financing problem that vexed earlier efforts to improve golf in the park using only private funding and would advance golf in the Park far above what could have been done exclusively with existing FEMA funds (which by statute could only be used to restore golf in the park to pre storm conditions.)

From the Bayou District Foundation website: their private plan for our public park:

Bayou District Foundation’s fundamental goal is to help create a city neighborhood that thrives from excellent housing, nearby high quality schools and retail services and abundant recreational resources for youth. Since the Bayou District borders the historic New Orleans City Park golf courses, as well as the park’s many other recreation and youth sports amenities, the redevelopment of the park’s dormant golf facilities, in particular, has become a committed objective of the Bayou District Foundation’s recreational plan. >>

Public housing, golf and redevelopment

Bayou District Foundation is, or was, banking on revenue from the proposed PGA-style golf course to fund a host of social services it plans for the St. Bernard site. In a recent City Business Article ( May 18, 2009), it is revealed that there is no money to complete two thirds of the proposed redevelopment. One third of the redevelopment, 466 “mixed income” units will open by November, according to the
article. One-third of those units will be for former residents of the St. Bernard Housing Development, if they qualify, under a host of new rules.

On Bayou District Foundation’s website, the site continues to link to a Times Picayune (Nov. 27th, 2007) article stating the Foundation is counting on revenue from the proposed PGA style golf course for City Park. However, City Park CEO Bob Becker in recent public statements has cast doubt on the use of that revenue outside of the park, if and when the golf course is built. >>

A brief summary of the participants and genesis of the Bayou District Foundation plan for City Park
An attempt to make sense of how we got to this point.

To make sense of how a simple $21 million renovation of the existing golf courses in City Park morphed into a plan for a private non-profit foundation to take ownership of the public land through a 90-year lease and build a $46 million golf complex instead, one must start at the beginning, with Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club.

In 1993, developer Tom Cousins purchased the derelict East Lake Golf Club adjacent to the notorious East Lake Meadows housing project in Atlanta for $4.5 million, and invested $25 million into its renovation, with Rees Jones as the course architect.

In 1995, Cousins formed the East Lake Community Foundation (ELCF, now called East Lake Foundation) to partner with the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) on the redevelopment of the adjoining housing project into the mixed-income “Villages at East Lake” with the aid of a $33.5 million HUD HOPE VI grant, a public-private partnership similar to what happened here in New Orleans with the St Thomas Housing Project redevelopment in the late 1990’s. The ELCF then went on to incorporate a charter school, a YMCA, a pre-school, and a First Tee program for young golfers, held at the Rees Jones designed Charlie Yates Golf Course, a public par 58, 18-hole course opened in 1998, and built within the East Lake community next door to the private East Lake Golf Club. >>

Outlook for golf in New Orleans area sobering

That is OK if one is actually playing the game, but not so good if one is trying to balance the books.

Some area golf facilities have reached the point of no return. The next 12 months could determine whether their doors remain open. Other facilities appear to be better positioned to weather the storm and not be pulled under by a strengthening economic riptide. Still others are venturing out into the great unknown, specifically the new Lakewood Golf Club in Algiers and the Bayou District Foundation, which is trying to win over the Board of Commissioners at City Park and begin construction on a $46 million golf complex by the end of the year. >>

Average Joe not part of City Park golf plan

What’s not to like about the Bayou District using golf as “an organizing theme as well as an ongoing funding source for special programs designed to revitalize the distressed public housing community, ” all of it aimed at “allowing low-income families of the neighborhood to work their way out of poverty?”

Nothing whatsoever.

However, when it comes to the role golf, and City Park, are being asked to play in this laudable venture, I have a problem. >>

Massive City Park Golf Course Best Use of Space?

March 10, 2009
Thanks for the heads up about the new City Park golf proposal. I went online to read it, and compare it to the 2005 Master Plan it will supersede.

One of the joys of City Park post-Katrina has been that the vast 400+ acre golf complex between I-610 and Robert E. Lee has been available as a public greenspace. For the first time since the former swamp was drained and cleared, people have been out walking, jogging, bike-riding, flying kites, birding, and picnicking as well as fishing in the formerly inaccessible lagoons. Public land used for a public purpose, instead of for the exclusive use of the tiny minority who play golf. Last year City Park re-opened the north course, closing everything between Filmore and Robert E. Lee once again to public use. But the golf area between 1-610 and Filmore has remained open. If you haven’t been out there, give it a visit. The paved golf cart trails are perfect for strolling or bike riding. Wildlife, especially birds, are everywhere. >>

The proposed changes to the existing Master Plan are unacceptable.

Dear City Park Improvement Association:

The board of the one thousand member Orleans Audubon Society, representing National Audubon Society members from the fourteen parish area in southeast Louisiana, has reviewed the City Park Golf Master Plan by the Torre Design Consortium. We are writing today in response to the proposal to modify the March 29, 2005 New Orleans City Park Master Plan. The proposed changes to the existing Master Plan are unacceptable. Despite some modifications to the golfing plan presented at September 25, 2007 public meeting by the Bayou District Foundation, these changes are insufficient. We refer to the comments we sent on October 9, 2007 in response to that proposal. >>

Golf Complex Plan Unveiled by City Park
$46 million project to be done in two phases

Phase 1 would cost approximately $24.5 million and include the construction of an 18-hole championship course, clubhouse, access road to the clubhouse and parking, driving range, range clubhouse and maintenance facility, all encompassed between I-610 and Filmore Avenue and bounded east by Marconi Boulevard and west by Wisner Boulevard. >>

New Orleans proposal links St. Bernard and City Park
Golf fees would help finance development

Golf and public housing may seem like odd bedfellows. But the plan uses as its model Atlanta’s East Lake housing and golf development that replaced a notorious Atlanta public housing complex with what by all accounts has become a thriving mixed-income neighborhood. That unique project taps the golf revenue to finance education and recreation programs for families in subsidized housing. >>

Mixed-Income Housing: The East Lake Experience
Testimony of Thomas G. Cousins before the Millennial Housing Commission

My intent today is to offer thoughts and suggestions on how to improve HUD’s program of mixed-income housing. I hope the Commission will remember this testimony for three simple points. First, mixed-income housing works. It is certainly the best method I know of to transform devastated housing “projects” into truly safe and healthy “neighborhoods”. Second, for the program to work on a large scale, it must be simplified and made more profitable for the private, for-profit developers that are essential to the program’s success. And third, HUD must provide funding for effective social services that we believe are an essential part of every mixed-income development. >>

PLEASE< if you ‘d like to be included get in touch with
Melissa gray <

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