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Relocating the Byron Nelson Is a Deal-Breaker for Southern Dallas Golf Course, City Officials Say

Next week, Dallas City Council members will – likely – approve a letter of intent for city manager Mary Suhm to continue negotiations with SMU and AT&T to build a golf course on city property in southern Dallas. During this morning’s City Council briefing, the proposed Southern Dallas golf course came up, of course. A lot of details were fleshed out, including the dealbreakers. The entire presentation is after the jump, but here are some points:

1. Lease approximately 400 acres from City for 40 years beginning with a base lease of $1,000 and increasing to $10,000 per year upon opening of the course

2. Develop, program, and operate the golf complex, consisting of an 18-hole championship golf course, practice range, short course, clubhouse, tournament facilities, The First Tee youth golf program teaching facility, and training academy for the SMU golf team, at an initial development cost of not less than $20 million for the first phase and any additional cost overruns as a result of construction

3. Fund and/or make an additional $2.5 million in improvements to the City’s Trinity Trails Phase 3 with funds from AT&T

4. Secure relocation of the Byron Nelson Championship to the completed golf course and pursue similar tournaments

5. Secure adoption of the golf complex by SMU and the location there of related facilities, activities and events potentially including NCAA tournaments

6. Establish The First Tee youth golf program and related facilities at the golf complex

7. Provide for and ensure that not less than 25% of annual rounds of golf will be available to charitable tournaments and events, educational and youth programming, and/or coordinated public play

8. Operate, program, repair and maintain the golf complex and understand that all improvements will become property of the City

The third point is the one that stuck with some councilmembers: secure the Byron Nelson Championship.

“We’re going to get it, just legally I didn’t want us to get in a situation where a delay were to come, and folks [use] that as a caveat to stop [course construction] in a legal way,” said Dwaine Caraway.

Suhm disagreed: “I believe it’s a condition we need to stick with. That’s an important component of this deal.” Assistant city manager Ryan Evans also supported its inclusion.

It’s an interesting point. On one hand, the money, visitors, and economic development project supporters keep touting will likely be non-existent without a tournament. (The Byron Nelson draws $32 million annually to the local community, Evans said.) It becomes a local course, one with little draw. But leaving that stipulation in the letter of intent means the entire project could be torpedoed without the tournament. And if the city expects to begin construction in the spring – as Evans said this morning – the window to convince PGA officials to move the tournament isn’t that big.

Now PGA head Tim Finchem said “the odds are quite high” the tournament will move. But what if it doesn’t, and private funding doesn’t hit its stated $20 million goal?