Sequoyah National Golf Course, a signature course built and operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is slowly being weaned from tribal subsidies that have helped prop up its operations since it opened several years ago.

This month, tribal council voted not to extend a $500,000 line of credit Sequoyah golf course has through the tribe to help cover budget shortfalls and emergency expenses — symbolizing tribal leaders’ sincerity in seeing the course become self-sufficient.

Ryan Ott, director of golf at Sequoyah National Golf Course, asked tribal council earlier this month to extend the course’s line of credit through fiscal year 2015. The line of credit was scheduled to expire in the fall of 2013.

“It is strictly there for, in case of emergencies,” Ott told the council. In the past, it has been used to pay for utilities or paychecks when cash flow was strained, Ott said.

The line of credit was originally setup to cover Sequoyah National’s budget shortfalls, but as it moves closer to profitability, the credit became a fall back for emergencies. The golf course is still not breaking even, however.

“We are getting closer though,” Ott said.

In addition to the line of credit, the tribe gives the golf course an annual contribution to help keep it afloat. Last year, the amount was $1.2 million.

The course was built both to flesh out Cherokee’s tourism offerings and to provide tribal members with a form of recreation that was lacking.

Last year, tribal council members said they could not justify subsidizing the golf course for too much longer when other operations were forced to take budget cuts. Voting not to extend the expiration date on the line of credit shows tribal leaders intend to stick to their guns and start cutting off financial support for the course.

“After having the budget season that we’ve had, I don’t feel like we can support this,” Tribal Council Member B. Ensley said at the meeting earlier this month.

Without the line of credit, if an emergency arose, tribal council would have to vote to allocate additional money to the golf course.

“If they come to the tribe, the tribe is going to have to find money somewhere,” said Vice Chief Larry Blythe. The line of credit allowed the course to have access to emergency money without coming to tribal council first.

About this time last year, Ott said that the golf course was still about five years away from breaking even. In addition to the start-up costs associated with building the course, maintaining the luscious golf course year-round takes quite a bit of green.

Golf is all about the experience — skimping could cause a course to lose business. In late July, the golf course began selling beer, which has helped business.

“It’s definitely an experience enhancer,” Ott said.

Drinking alcohol is a common activity for recreational golfers. Other golf courses in Western North Carolina sell alcohol somewhere on the country club’s premises or allow people to bring alcohol onto the course with them.

In addition to adding alcohol sales, Principal Chief Michell Hicks in August made first mention of the possibility of building housing around Sequoyah National. Typically, golf courses are part of a larger business, such as a resort or real estate development. Profits made from home sales or room rentals are used to cover the costs associated with upkeep of the course itself.

fr charlesgeorgeMore than 50 years after Cherokee veteran Charles George died in the Korean War, military medals belonging to the private first class were finally welcomed home Monday — and along with them, the two young boys responsible for their return.

fr cherokeesewerThe tribal council for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians recently approved a $28 million upgrade for the sewage treatment plant, which will double the capacity and accommodate demand fueled in part by growth of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

out frIn Cherokee, a dead coyote is worth more than a live one — about $25 more.

In the coming weeks, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department will begin doling out $25 bounties to enrolled tribal members for each coyote they shoot and kill on tribal land. Cherokee hunters can exchange the coyote carcasses for money but get to keep the pelt if they want. The bodies will be incinerated.

fr chaskespencerChaske Spencer, more widely known as werewolf Sam Uley from the “Twilight” saga series, drew on his Native American roots during an appearance in Cherokee last week, hoping to transcend his star appeal to bring home a broader message.

fr cupcakesSitting in their bakery-café last week, Ann Cooper and Kim Buchanan were constantly intervening to expound on the other’s comments or completing each other’s thoughts.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is hiring an energy program coordinator to oversee a growing slate of energy-saving and green energy projects.

The tribe already has a strategic energy plan in place to make Cherokee more environmentally sustainable but needs someone to spearhead it. Solar panels have already been installed near Cherokee’s visitors centers.

art frAmid the blinking lights and stuffed animal prizes at the Cherokee Indian Fair, a scream echoes from behind the trees.

The source of the noise is a group of young men and village elders huddled in a circle. Each face is stone cold, focusing on the moment. Legs jump up and down. Arms flail and stretch. Final words of encouragement are given before the heat of battle.

fr bearzoosFederal inspectors have upped the ante for a controversial bear zoo on the Cherokee Reservation, this time opening an official complaint against the operation that could face large fines or even be shut down.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is planning a $92-million adventure park, which is expected to attract families to Cherokee and open up a new source of revenue for the tribe.

Tribal council last week approved the idea in a 9-to-2 vote.

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