© Photo special to The Guardian by Tourism P.E.I./Greg Vaughn
The Links at Crowbush Cove, seen here in this file photo, is one of Prince Edward Island's premier golf courses owned by the province.
Tourism minister Rob Henderson gives a “50/50 chance’’ that the four provincially-run golf courses in P.E.I. will be in private hands next season.
The Liberal government is looking to lease or sell off the Links at Crowbush Cove, Rodd Brudenell River Resort, Dundarave Golf Course and Mill River Golf Course.
Henderson says the government has whittled seven expressions of interest down to four.
The most recent set of proposals include two companies looking at all four courses, one looking at just Crowbush and another looking at Mill River.
Henderson says the four companies have been asked to come back with “firmer offers’’ in December.
He describes the companies as all having a credible reputation in the golf industry.
Henderson says no deadline has been set to conclude a possible deal.
“This is not a sprint here,’’ he said.
“We’re not going to try to get the first deal that comes.’’
Henderson says if the courses are to be privately-run, the government expects “a reasonable standard’’ to be maintained.
The government, though, clearly wants out of the business with the four courses losing up to $1 million a year.
Dundarave has been the biggest albatross of the four, consistently bleeding money ever since it first opened in July 1999.
The tourism minister says the course lost about $600,000 in 2011 alone while the hit from this past season is still being calculated.
“It has never made money since the day it was open,’’ said Henderson.
He added there is a “remote possibility’’ Dundarave may not open next season if a company does not take it off the government’s hands.
The four provincially owned and operated courses cost about $5 million a year to run and in January of this year, cabinet had to approve a $1.4-million special warrant to make up for a shortfall from the courses.
In a move to help reduce the losses, the province shortened the golf season at Dundarave.
It also closed the Divine Nine at Brudenell River Resort after a government-issued request for proposals on that course turned up no interest.
Mill River, Crowbush, Dundarave and Brudenell were put on the selling block in 2009 with an estimated total price of around $40 million. But there was no interest and they were taken off the market.