At a May 1 public meeting between the Washoe County Board of Commissioners, City of Reno, City of Sparks, Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority and the Washoe County School District, most people spoke out in favor of converting Wildcreek Golf Course in Sparks into a newly remodeled Reed High School. Although there was some dissent, a lot of teachers are yearning for better facilities for which to educate its kids.
The RSCVA claims that it is losing around $200,000 a year in operating the golf course. With the influx of money coming in to support WCSD capital improvement projects (thanks to the Save Our Schools measure passing in last November’s election), the notion to convert the golf course into a high school came up.
“The RSCVA has been trying to find a way to sell or transfer the land. We talked about this is golf course a lot in trying to decide whether operating it meets the RSCVA’s mission of driving tourism and overnight stays to the Reno-Sparks area,” says RSCVA Communication Manager Ben McDonald. He added that the RSCVA was finding that operating Wildcreek is not a sales tool anymore to drive business to the area, largely in part because of the many other golf courses in the area.
The RSCVA approached Washoe County Commissioner (and RSCVA board member) Bob Lucey about what it could do to mitigate Wildcreek’s operating costs and losses. A conversation snowballed between all of the agencies, resulting in the May 1 meeting with the five local entities. Held at the Board of County Commissioners office in Reno, four out of five agencies voted in favor of moving forward with WCSD’s Letter of Intent at a publicly noticed meeting. Since the RSCVA couldn’t produce a quorum, it did not vote, yet submitted its letter of approval at a later date.
“Now they are in the process of performing tests to make sure the land would be useful to put buildings on the property,” McDonald says. “Everyone wants to get things done quickly but these processes take time.”
However, this idea of transferring the property to the WCSD has come as a surprise to many Sparks citizens and not everyone is on board, especially since the transfer is supposed to happen in August and there has been little to no conversation about it since.
“I don’t think there’s been enough homework done on this yet,” says Sparks City Councilman and RSCVA Board Member Ed Lawson. Representing Ward 2 of Sparks, Lawson is concerned that there has not been enough due diligence on the project to support or refuse it. He adds that the RSCVA is also close to paying off a water rights bond that it has with the City to operate the golf course. He doesn’t see the rush to transfer the property if the RSCVA could be operating in the black after the bond has been paid off.
“A lot of things haven’t been investigated… it sits right in the middle of my ward which allows a lot of aesthetic value to our residents,” says Lawson. Questions residents have about traffic, Reno-Tahoe International Airport flight paths, soils, roadways, sound/light pollution, and relocating the Orr Ditch are just a few that residents have brought up which haven’t been addressed.
There is also the question of who truly owns the land that Wildcreek Golf Course sits on- is it Washoe County or the RSCVA that is authorized to transfer the property?
“I don’t want to transfer the land and find out it’s prohibited, then we end up losing the golf course and have no chance for a school,” says Lawson. He says that he has attended a few Save Wildcreek Golf Course meetings (held on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. at 4701 Wedekind Road) and that the group is uncompromising in Wildcreek being anything other than a golf course.
Comprised of concerned citizens, Save Wildcreek claims that the golf course is a “public treasure that adds to the quality of life to all our citizens,” states the website. “If we stand by and let uncaring public officials destroy this beloved treasure, it can never be replaced.”
“I don’t want another D’Andrea,” says Lawson. “If given a choice, I’d rather have a golf course.” Lawson adds that he urges caution to everyone in the process to carefully consider the next steps, and noted that the City of Sparks has not seen anything to review yet.
“Everyone needs to slow down, it’s putting the cart way before the horse. It just doesn’t feel right- in the four months since they have announced the project they are going to transfer the property? In government time, that’s light speed,” says Lawson. “They haven’t even contacted the RTC about a road study or moving the Orr Ditch. I just see a lack of preparation (for the property transfer). It has a long ways to go and I want to make sure (a thorough preparation) happens. Especially since it’s right in the middle of my ward which affects 400-500 homes,” says Lawson.
“Questions abound….we should be in no big hurry to lose a community asset. I understand why the RSCVA doesn’t want to operate the golf course but there are a lot of questions not being answered and no information is forthcoming,” says Lawson.