Citing revenue concerns, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson officials have elected to close the Eagleglen Golf Course -- one of three on base -- for this year’s season, despite opposition from local golf enthusiasts.
In a Monday statement, JBER commander Col. Brian Duffy says the decision came after discussions with local players -- who make up two-thirds of the military courses’ players, according to a base study -- as well as the state’s congressional delegation.
Word of the course’s possible closure had been making the rounds in Anchorage’s golf community since at least February, when Alaska Golf Association executive director Jeff Barnhart said its $50 fee for civilians made it a steady revenue stream for the base. JBER confirmed in March the possibility of one course closing on base, without mentioning which one it might be.
JBER has said the golf program ran at a $2.2 million loss to the base’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation fund over the last five years, following a 37 percent drop in players over the last decade. Closing Eagleglen comes as part of a broader Air Force cutbacks in recreational facilities, with 19 similar operations closed across the service last year and golf courses in Florida, Nebraska and Kansas closing in recent years.
While locals had recommended options at public meetings on JBER’s golf courses ranging from selling old equipment and improving reservation systems to consolidating managerial staff and hiring seasonal workers, base officials say many of those measures were already in effect.
"Unfortunately, the only courses of action which resulted in us generating sufficient business to cover all costs and contribute positively to our MWR fund involved significantly increasing greens fees for our civilian patrons or closing portions of our golf program," Duffy said.
Duffy emphasized that the base would focus on improving services at its Moose Run Golf Course, with repairs to bunkers, tee areas and a bridge all planned. He ruled out both cutting greens fees at Eagleglen, which would require approval from private golf-course owners within a 30-minute commute of the case, as well as raising them to cover costs.
"We are convinced the impact of a significant price increase, to the level required to generate positive cash flow, would result in substantial reductions in patronage, especially when compared with prices at other venues in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley," Duffy said.
In a joint statement Monday, Alaska's U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, "expressed disappointment" at JBER's decision.
“I am disappointed that Anchorage is losing a resource that is enjoyed by thousands of Alaskans each year,” Murkowski said. “However, I understand that steps needed to be taken to ensure that JBER can continue to provide programs that benefit the moral and readiness of our Servicemen and women and their families.”
“I fully sympathize with and agree that the Air Force’s first obligation is to its service members and families and it has been a challenge meeting those obligations while subsidizing Eagleglen,” Begich said. “I have been incredibly impressed with the support shown by Alaska’s golfing community and the innovative proposals offered to keep Eagleglen viable. I am disappointed the military couldn’t give those a chance to work, at least for this coming season.”
JBER officials plan to keep Eagleglen open during winter months for cross-country skiing, as part of a military “Fit to Fight” initiative among service members.