Audubon Golf Course's huge financial losses continue unabated
(Updated 2021) Every year since 2003, we have heard the claims by the Audubon Commission and Audubon Nature Institute that their still controversial “new” golf course is "a success!" When they demolished the original historic Audubon Golf Course in 2001, and began constructing the new course with $6 million mostly public dollars, the AC/ANI 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 AC/ANI’s claims of "success" and "support for the park", we find mostly financial losses. Usually big ones.

For most of these years, we plugged in the Audubon Golf Course income/loss numbers directly from the Audubon Commission's audited financial statements posted on the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s website. For the twenty 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 each of the other Audubon Commission facilities.

But starting in 2016, things changed, and not in a good way: suddenly, Audubon decided to stop treating the golf course as a separate facility, and began to hide the abysmal golf course numbers among the overall 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 began to use public record requests to obtain Audubon’s Operating Statements in order to quantify the ongoing golf course losses. This had the added advantage of differentiating between the revenues and expenses of the golf course and those of the clubhouse-restaurant, which the audited financial statements had never done. These new numbers also turned out to be illuminating: if not for the ongoing losses of the golf course itself, the Clubhouse-Restaurant might actually be able to make enough revenues to do what the entire facility was meant to do from its inception, which is to provide much needed funds for the maintenance of Audubon Park.

The relative financial success of the of the clubhouse-restaurant compared to the golf course also confirms something we have claimed all along—that the entire course redevelopment in 2001 was primarily intended as a way to get a restaurant and reception facility into Audubon Park, and the AC/ANI never expected the golf course to be financially successful, despite their claims. It's long past time that this massive money-loser of a golf course, that prevents most parkgoers from access to almost 30% of the greenspace in Audubon Park, is closed.

Audubon Golf Course and Clubhouse-Restaurant YTD Operating Income (Loss) from 2012 to 2019

Year Course Income (Loss) Clubhouse Income (Loss) Facility Income (Loss)
2012 (37,500) (115,700) (153,200)
2013 (85,200) (70,000) (155,200)
2014 (213,700) (98,700) (312,400)
2015 (370,700) (191,800) (562,500)
2016 (399,100) (313,100) (712,200)
2017 (268,300) 184,900 (83,400)
2018 (248,700) 298,100 49,400
2019 (303,600) 196,600 (106,700)
The discrepancies between AC/ANI “Operating Statements” and the “Combined Schedule of Revenues and Expenses” that is part of the Audubon Commission’s annual financial report have never been explained. The numbers on this chart detailing the separated golf course and clubhouse restaurant revenues and expenses are copied from four line items in the Operating Statements: “Golf Course Fees, Rentals, Proshop Operating Revenues,” “Golf Course Operations Operating Expenses,” Golf Clubhouse Operating Revenues,” and “Golf Clubhouse Food Service Operating Expenses,” which are the only golf-related items on the “Zoo and Park Operating Statements.”

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 full year of operation (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 1995-2019 below.

While we've certainly never claimed to understand Audubon Commission and Audubon Nature Institute economics, it seems that earning $50,000-$100,000 a year from an "old" golf course is far preferable to consistently losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from their 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!

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-five year span, from 1995 through 2019. 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. Our original version of this chart included depreciation and amortization figures in the losses, but the chart has been revised to show only operating revenues and 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 2019 with depreciation excluded

Year Operating Revenue Operating Expenses Operating Income (Loss)
1995 391,248 345,971 45,277
1996 454,237 351,219 103,018
1997 472,059 335,631 136,428
1998 448,445 336,966 111,479
1999 419,158 339,843 79,315
2000 384,668 349,934 34,734
2001 (open Jan-June) 220,322 258,522 (38,200)
2002 (open Oct-Dec) 278,332 245,227 33,105
2003 1,818,402 2,031,098 (212,696)
2004 1,957,023 2,195,035 (237,962)
2005 (closed Sept-Oct) 1,658,030 1,769,027 (110,997)
2006 1,598,172 1,503,209 94,963
2007 1,853,945 1,947,031 (93,086)
2008 1,841,812 2,002,983 (161,171)
2009 1,722,357 1,855,066 (132,709)
2010 1,707,150 1,823,280 (116,130)
2011 1,698,640 1,713,897 (15,239)
2012 1,714,905 1,806,274 (91,369)
2013 1,792,320 1,918,981 (126,661)
2014 1,691,577 1,998,188 (306,606)
2015 1,839,644 2,379,001 (539,357)
2016 2,288,200 3,000,400 (712,200)
2017 2,701,100 2,784,500 (83,400)
2018 2,269,000 2,219,600 (49,400)
2019 2,164,800 2,271,500 (106,700)

Home     Login
©  2010 Save Audubon Park

a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation