Audubon Golf Course's huge financial losses continue unabated (2018)
Every year since 2003, we have heard the claims by the Audubon Commission and Audubon Nature Institute that their controversial new golf course is "a success!" When they constructed it in 2001-2002 with $6 million mostly public dollars, they claimed the project was necessary in order to raise money for maintenance and support of Audubon Park. But every year when we dutifully update the financial numbers that are supposed to support the Audubon Commission's claims of "success" and "support for the park", we find only financial losses. Usually big ones.

But starting in 2016, things changed, and not in a good way. For the 20 years between 1995 and 2015, it was a simple process to determine each year's golf course losses because the facility had its own column in the public "Schedule of Revenues and Expenses", along with all the other Audubon Commission facilities. But starting in 2016, lo and behold, the golf course numbers were rolled into the park and zoo numbers so they would no longer be immediately detectable! No one on the Audubon Commission seems to know who authorized this change in their public records either.

So much for transparency by a public body that is supposed to be answerable to the public.

But we persevered, and used public record requests to determine the ongoing golf course losses. In 2016, golf course losses totaled $717,200 even BEFORE a modest approximation of $500,000 of depreciation was added (13% of total park depreciation), for a grand total of approximately a $1.2 million dollar loss in 2016. In 2017, the golf course only lost $83,400 before depreciation of about $500,000 was added in. Since depreciation breakdown by facility was no longer part of the public record, the total operating losses were probably even more, since total park depreciation and amortization numbers also soared, from $3,753,067 in 2015 to $4,314,435 in 2016 and $4,550,168 in 2017.

The Audubon Commission Financial Statements of 2003 proudly note that "the newly renovated Audubon Park Golf Course and new Audubon Park Clubhouse generated additional revenues of approximately $1,540,000." They chose NOT to mention that expenses of over $2 million were also generated, resulting in a hefty loss for the new course in its first year of operation in 2003, a pattern that has continued every year since... as predicted by many who opposed the course in 2001. We've charted the numbers for 1995-2016 below, and attached the financial records for the skeptics.

While we've certainly never claimed to understand Audubon Commission and Audubon Nature Institute economics, it seems that earning $60,000-$80,000 a year from an "old" golf course is far preferable to consistently losing $500,000-$1,000,000 per year from a new one instead. While revenues for full year 5 of operation (2008) were certainly higher than the $1,318,449 projected by the economic study they used to justify the course's construction, the corresponding expenses for year 5 were projected at a mere $948,308 rather than the grim reality of $2,345,956. In full year 10 of operation (2013), their "Audubon Park Golf Course Improvement Study" had projected $1,547,447 of revenue and $1,102,000 of expenses with a resulting cash flow of $445,447—but the actual figures were $1,792,320 for revenue and $2,372,573 for expenses for a total loss of $580,253 instead. Hmmm…

Is this really what the AC-ANI had in mind? And more importantly, does this sound like good management to you? For an organization that receives almost one-third of its revenues each year from our tax dollars and spent $6 million of mostly public dollars to build this golf course, perhaps a bit of public accountability should be expected.

The following chart shows the Net Operating Income and Loss of the Audubon Golf Course over a twenty-year span, from 1995 through 2016. The old golf course was closed in July 2001 for construction of the new $6 million course from September 2001 through September 2002, and the new course opened to much fanfare in October 2002. The new 'not-a-restaurant' Golf Clubhouse opened in April 2003.

The numbers below were taken directly from the Audubon Commission's audited financial statements posted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. The depreciation and amortization figures included on those statements has therefore been included as part of their annual losses. Even excluding depreciation and amortization, however, the golf course made a profit in only ONE year since 2003: in 2006, when almost every other golf course in the city was closed post-Katrina, the golf course made $94,963 in profit.

Audubon Golf Course Operating Income/Loss from 1995 to 2016

Year Operating Revenue Operating Expenses Operating Income (Loss)
1995 391,248 383,516 7,732
1996 454,237 393,226 61,011
1997 472,059 382,285 89,774
1998 448,445 386,991 61,454
1999 419,158 378,465 40,693
2000 384,668 376,122 8,546
2001 (open Jan-June) 220,322 280,365 (60,043)
2002 (open Oct-Dec) 278,332 279,634 (1,302)
2003 1,818,402 2,154,702 (336,300)
2004 1,957,023 2,598,105 (641,032)
2005 (closed Sept-Oct) 1,658,030 2,158,094 (500,064)
2006 1,598,172 1,841,907 (243,735)
2007 1,853,945 2,269,764 (415,819)
2008 1,841,812 2,345,956 (504,144)
2009 1,722,357 2,206,641 (484,284)
2010 1,707,150 2,183,153 (476,003)
2011 1,698,640 2,119,035 (420,395)
2012 1,714,905 2,211,347 (496,442)
2013 1,792,320 2,372,573 (580,253)
2014 1,691,577 2,454,532 (762,955)
2015 1,839,644 2,858,574 (1,018,930)
2016 2,288,200 ≈3,500,400 (≈1,212,200)
2017 2,701,100 ≈3,284,500 (≈583,400)
Audubon Commission Combining Statement of Revenues and Expenses, 1995-2004

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