Ruggiero: Watertown loses more money on arena than golf course

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 4:35 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - When it comes to running the Watertown Golf Club, the city will lose money. But a city council member says the city loses a lot more money running another facility and it seems to bother no one.

In a 3 to 2 vote Tuesday, a majority of city council approved an operating budget for its newest asset, the Thompson Park Golf Course, formerly known as the Watertown Golf Club.

It’s the next major step towards opening this spring.

“It’s time to move forward with this and I think that’s important,” said Lisa Ruggiero, council member.

Ruggiero and fellow council members Cliff Olney and Patrick Hickey approved the operating budget

Mayor Jeff Smith and council member Sarah Compo-Pierce voted against it.

Based on projections from the Parks and Recreation Department, as the city runs the course from May 1 to June 30, it’ll lose more than $160,000.

“I’ve heard from a majority of my colleagues that this was an extremely profitable business. We used their numbers in terms of the golfers and based off their numbers and our budgeting, we came up with a loss,” said Smith.

Ruggiero had seen the books and told 7 News in January she did her necessary due diligence by reviewing the financial statements and was satisfied with the information. She says she never claimed it would make a lot of money.

“You have to look that there are two different operations. The way that he ran it versus the way a municipality has to run it,” said


She argues the Watertown Municipal Arena lost more than $450,000 last year; $1 million if you include the bond payment. That’s a lot more than the golf club projections.

But Smith says between hockey and events, the arena is always open.

“Probably the most utilized city facility year-round,” he said. “Always some events going on there, correct?”

Ruggiero says staff is coming up with ways to utilize the course during the winter, including cross-country skiing, hoping people can focus less on the politics and more on the positive.