DuPage Airport: Report of golf course losses misleading

Updated 5/23/2012 4:28 PM

The DuPage Airport Authority is defending the financial viability of its golfing operation after consultants revealed the golf course lost about $456,000 last year.

Crowe Horwath LLP, which was hired by the county to examine two dozen local taxing bodies, recently concluded that the airport in West Chicago has made great strides in reducing its reliance on property tax dollars by earning more income from hanger leases, fuel sales and other airport-related activities.

But the consultants recommended that the authority develop a multiyear operating plan to address spending deficits at Prairie Landing Golf Club.

This week, airport officials confirmed that the 18-hole golf course lost about $456,000 last year. However, they said that number doesn't tell the whole story.

David Bird, the airport authority's executive director, said the Crowe Horwath consultants reached that number by factoring in $200,365 of asset depreciation, a $236,811 property tax bill the course paid and $37,852 in losses from the flight center's Kitty Hawk Deli.

If you take those three components out, Bird said, Prairie Landing is making money.

"From a golf operations standpoint, we're breaking even," he said Wednesday.

In fact, Bird said he believes the course is doing well, "especially viewed in the context of declining demand for golf over the last 10 to 12 years."

"It's a very, very difficult environment that we're in," said Bird, adding there are ongoing efforts to reduce expenses and generate more revenue at the golf course.

The authority created the 308-acre golf course because it needed land for water drainage and future airport expansion. The property also serves as a noise buffer.

However, the chairman of airport board stresses that previous airport leadership decided to open the golf course.

"I wasn't in favor of it when it was built," said airport Chairman Dan Goodwin, adding that he has never used the golf course. "I have no intention of golfing on the golf course."

Nevertheless, Goodwin said the course is a necessary land use. Even if the golf operation loses money, the authority must maintain the property for the water drainage, noise buffer and airport expansion purposes.

"If anybody has a better ideas, let us know," Goodwin said.

County board members say they would like to see airport off the tax rolls sometime in the future. Last year, the authority levied about $6.1 million in property taxes.

One way officials hope to lighten the burden on taxpayers is by luring more tenants to the DuPage Business Center, which is located on 800 acres just south of the airport.

The authority recently got permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to sell about 450 acres of developable land at the business park. As a result, the authority will be able to pursue potential users who would rather own -- not lease -- their parcels.

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