When Callippe opened, the Bay Area hype over a new golf course brought more than 73,000 players to Pleasanton. During those early years, revenue from green fees and sales in the pro shop more than paid the bond debt. The course has been ranked among the top 10 in California by Golfweek Magazine and in the top 10 of America's best new public courses by Golf Digest. Callippe Preserve also was voted one of the Top 50 Municipal Courses in the nation by GolfWeek. Still, even with those ratings and continued praise from golfers, the number of players has dropped by at least 10,000. This is partly because those who drove long distances to try the course don't make the trip back, and partly, too, because the sport of golfing is declining nationally, but mainly it is because of the economy. Rates were increased two years ago to $53 on weekends and holidays for Pleasanton residents and $64 for those who live elsewhere. Seniors lost their lower rates on the weekends although they can still play weekdays for $27. The green fees are competitive with nearby public courses and probably can't be raised without cutting into the already reduced number playing Callippe.
It's not just golf that brings in the revenue. Golfers spend an average of $62 each time they play, far more than the green fees that are $37 on weekdays for Pleasanton residents and $44 for non-residents. Food has become one of Callippe's favorite attractions, even for non-golfers. Memberships in Callippe's golf club, its Senior Club and Women's 18-hole Golf Club also produce revenue. Special events, including the Spring Event Showcase from noon to 4 p.m. this Sunday, add to the festive and profitable non-golfing schedule. If there's one regret about Callippe, it's that a previous City Council bowed to the demands of those living in unincorporated Happy Valley and downsized the clubhouse. If it had been built as a full-size facility, weddings and community gatherings would probably be paying much more than the $1.4 million extra dollars needed to pay down those bonds.
If Callippe was owned and managed by a private company with $25 million in its bank, the bonds would have been called last year and the debt retired. But the city of Pleasanton has ongoing municipal responsibilities and must hoard its reserves when times are good so they can be used to meet its city responsibilities when they're not. Taking $22 million out of its reserves would mean that the city government might not be able to afford a new fire truck, which the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department needs, or the new hybrid squad cars that Police Chief David Spiller wants. Also, given the ongoing economic uncertainties facing the country -- and Pleasanton -- today, this is not the time to cash in those reserves. Paying down the bonds at $1.4 million a year makes better economic sense to us.