The cost of a round of golf is going up, but the red ink is barely retreating.

That is the state of affairs surrounding the operation of the Hyde Park Golf Course heading into the 2006 season of play.

At the same time, duffers can tee up for a little to a lot less at comparable municipally operated golf courses in nearby Erie County.

For Falls City Administrator Daniel Bristol and Golf Course Manager Sam Granieri, it’s not a very rosy picture to look at.

“What can I say,” Bristol said. “The cost (to operate the 36 hole course) is the cost. It’s expensive and the fees help to offset the cost of the course to the general fund.”

With the city facing a property tax rate close to the state imposed maximum, the Falls can ill afford any operation that further reduces available revenue for public safety and other necessary municipal services. Bristol admits there are not a lot of options when it comes to reviving the troubled golf complex.

“We tried to bring in someone to operate 18 of the holes,” he said, ”but that’s failed.”

Bristol was referring to a contract between the city and closely held Greater Niagara Sports Group, which was supposed to take-over the operation and development of the so-called Red and White Nine courses as well as the driving range and pro shop located in the former Adelphia Dome on the course property. Taxpayer lawsuits have tied that contract up in court and to date, the dome has collapsed as a result of a spring snow storm and the group has failed to make any of its promised improvements to the Red and White Nine courses.

“The North 18 (which the city retained control of under the GNS deal) has had significant improvements,” Granieri said. “Obviously, other parts of the course haven’t lived up to what was expected.”

The city administrator said he doesn’t believe the GNS deal is likely to be regenerated.

“As a practical matter, it is still in litigation,” Bristol said. “But the future doesn’t look bright for (the GNS deal) to be an option.”

Ron Anton, the city’s corporation counsel, said Monday that the city has filed a lawsuit against Greater Niagara Sports Group for “breach of contract for failure to perform.” In addition, the city plans to remove the deflated golf dome from the site.

The new fee increases are the first in three years. They call for a resident season pass to increase $25, for all classes of players. Residents would pay $400 for the season, while non-residents would pay $500.

However, when compared to the costs of season passes at Elma Meadows Golf Course and the Grover Cleveland Golf Course, both operated by Erie County, the fees are 33 percent to 100 percent higher. A resident season pass at Elma Meadows costs $300, a similar pass at Grover Cleveland is just $190.

A season pass at Hyde Park for senior golfs will increase from $250 to $275. While seniors pay just $160 for season passes at Elma Meadows and Grover Cleveland.

Granieri said he doesn’t know if the comparisons are fair.

“I can’t compare Hyde Park to those courses,” he said. “I don’t have an operational knowledge of (the Erie County courses.)”

A similar attempt earlier this year to raise golf rates failed after golfers complained.

The Falls’ 2006 proposed budget allocates $243,943 of the city’s property taxes to help make up a difference between the revenues the course generates and the expense of maintaining it.

“It’s just darn expensive,” Bristol said. “I also have to look at some capital investments to make the course more attractive. I also need to look at whether I can continue to offer 36 holes. I mean I may have to tear out the Red Nine.”

Critics have contended that a lack of maintenance by GNS has left the Red Nine a “cow pasture.”

Asked by a reporter if there is a future for the Hyde Park Course — if the operation can ever be made profitable, Granieri replied, “I don’t know how to respond to that.”