The Three Crowns golf course was the best option for the former Amoco refinery site, and replacing it would be costly, said the chairman of the joint powers board that oversees the area's development.

"As far as being able to be utilized by the public in some capacity, the golf course was the best route to go," Bryce Row said last week.

Row was not on the board when it decided to build the course, he said.

But it was the best option in light of the ongoing cleanup of the refinery site according to people who were on the board then, Row said.

"It improved the property, not only as far as use but beauty and it allowed the ongoing (mitigation) processes to continue," he said.

In 1998, Amoco – now BP – signed a 99-year lease agreement with the City of Casper and Natrona County to oversee the development of the property and replace the jobs lost when the refinery closed in 1991.

Work began on the golf course a few years later. The course, which cost $10 million to develop, opened in 2004. The course was expected to lose some money initially and then become self-sufficient.

That never happened.

The ARAJPB has had to subsidize the course by nearly $4.9 million. The subsidy for the 2013-2014 fiscal year was $540,975, according to the most recent audit.

Golf courses elsewhere have had similar struggles, Row said.

According to people he's talked to in the golf industry, some courses supplement their losses by selling adjacent land, he said.

But that isn't an option with Three Crowns because BP owns the former refinery property now known as the Platte River Commons, he said.

Replacing the course with something else isn't easy or cheap, either, Row said.

Comments to a recent story about what to do at the Platte River Commons have included suggestions such as replacing the golf course with a water park and other amenities.

"When we look at any kind of development such as a golf course or a water park, there's extensive costs associated with building that structure," Row said.

"To re-purpose the use of that property would be multi-millions of dollars, whether that be a water park or a snowmobile resort on that property."