Hodge proposes 501(c)(4) plan for golf course

Matt Hollinshead,
The Aztec Municipal Golf Course could close at the end of the year, but backers of the facility are floating a still-forming plan to turn the course into a nonprofit entity.

AZTEC – Aztec Municipal Golf Course Operator Randy Hodge proposed forming a 501(c)(4) entity to ensure the course keeps operating beyond 2019, this time as a non-profit organization.

Golf course supporters met tonight at the facility to discuss the course's future.

“It sets a new precedent for what we can do for fundraising,” Hodge said. “We can get a lot of corporate America involved because (people) can donate to those types of entities, more so than they can do to a city or to an individual. I think that’s going to have a major impact on our future moving forward.”

Hodge said it’ll be more of a charitable donation method, but it’s yet to be determined whether donations would be taken in-person or online. Hillcrest Golf Course in Durango, Colorado, was used as an example of a profitable course through formation of a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) social welfare organization.

Ten of the 40 or so people attending the meeting volunteered to represent the group in taking its proposal to the city, which Hodge hopes to do by Sept. 1.

As a backup plan, and to be flexible through the process, Hodge said there would be a proposal to consider keeping nine of the 18 holes on the course.

“We’re brainstorming ideas,” Hodge told the attendees. “I don’t want to see (the course) go away.”

Hodge reminded the attendees that the course benefits the high school golf team and the entire community.

According to the Daily Times archive, in March Aztec’s City Commission unanimously voted not to renew the operating agreement with Hodge and to end the current lease of the golf course at the end of this year.

The course’s property and golf cart leases are set to expire in March 2020, but the city can end the course's lease at any time if it gives a 90-day notice.

The City Commission had the choice of closing the course within 90 days, keeping it open until the end of 2019 or entering into a new operator contract and keeping the course open.

The city began leasing the course in 2015.

City Commissioner Roslyn Fry said in March that keeping the golf course open would also allow the scheduled tournaments and activities to take place this year, including allowing the high school golf team to use the course.

In the meantime, Hodge encouraged the attendees to keep promoting the facility verbally and on social media.

The AHS golf team will also keep up its efforts by holding a team fundraiser currently scheduled for May 18.

“If we lose this golf course, we lose it for good,” AHS golf coach Irene Barry told the group.

The IRS website states that to qualify as a social welfare organization, "an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community (such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements)." 

"To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare," according to the website "The earnings of a section 501(c)(4) organization may not inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual."

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.