Let’s try thinking outside the box about golf courses

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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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.

By David A. McGregor (guest opinion)

Well, it seems the province has failed again in its efforts to sell a golf course. As Mr. Henderson said in The Guardian, he doesn’t want to sell them for the sake of selling, and I agree. But he must also realize the province will never get near what it put into them. And all the potential buyers out there simply want to buy it for a song.

However, there may be a real solution to the problem. The province may be let off the hook and the communities would keep the jobs and income they provide.

In 1919, two men from a small mid-western town in the United States decided to establish a professional sports team. The team was granted a franchise into a new league in 1921. In 1923, the management of the team decided to try something a little revolutionary to solve their money troubles. They turned the team into a non-profit corporation and sold shares to the public. The idea worked so well that shares were sold again in 1935, 1950, 1997 and 2011.  The shares don’t include equity, dividends, cannot be traded, have no securities-law protection, and stock ownership brings no season ticket privileges, though. While newly purchased shares can be given as gifts, once ownership is established, transfers are technically allowed only between immediate family members.   

There are presently 364,122 owners of this iconic franchise, which of course exists to this day. As of the 2010 census only about 104,000 people reside in the small town in which the team plays. Even in this financially challenging environment, the team has thrived for almost 100 years. The team has won 13 league titles and has had some of the greatest coaches and players in the league’s history. Players such as Hornung, Taylor, Starr, Lofton, White and Favre have put on the uniform. And of course the league’s greatest prize is named after the most iconic coach in the sport’s history, Vince Lombardi.

The Green Bay Packers are the only professional football team without an individual owner. In fact, its current ownership structure is in defiance of the NFL’s rules, but in the 1980s, the team was grandfathered in. It is still the only  American sports franchise to release its financial balance sheet every year.

Why could the P.E.I. government not try something similar to the Packers? Brudenell River and Dundarave courses are positioned directly next to each other. Incorporate them into non-profit business, sell shares to the public, which could include people from across Canada and the Eastern United States. As with the Packers, the share and rights structure could be established in a similar manner. Furthermore, shareholders would receive no benefit as far as fees and membership costs (it would be the same as owning Sobeys stock. Although you may acquire equity and dividends from the stock, the fact remains you still have to pay for your groceries like everyone else.)

To supplement the operations, for example, perhaps every hole could be sponsored by a company, individual or charity. For a fee, entities could advertise on the ball washers, the tee blocks, the flags on the pins, the benches and maybe a well-placed sign at the tee.

I realize this is a very different idea. Perhaps it is not really practical. But with the vultures hovering over the carcass, what does the government have to lose. If it fails, the government will be back to square one.

However, if it succeeds, it would be a boon for an area where jobs are needed and appreciated. As potential shareholders it would also give Islanders the direct ability to have a say in how the course is managed.  It could also be a solution to other problems the Island and many other places are sharing.

When you have your back against the wall, following the same train of thought that put you there is no plan at all.

David A. McGregor of Stratford, is a UPEI graduate, and lived in South Korea for 11 years, trading with Daishin and Hana Securities. Her is a graduate of IFSE Institute Mutual Fund

Organizations: NFL, Sobeys, Islanders Hana Securities IFSE Institute Mutual Fund

Geographic location: United States, The Guardian, P.E.I. Brudenell River Canada Iceland South Korea

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