Golf course discussions expected to continue through summer and fall

·4 min read

Jul. 9—ROCHESTER — Golf clubs and opinions are expected to continue swinging this summer when it comes to Rochester's four municipal golf courses.

"We are not making any recommendations Tuesday, but we will be using that information for community engagement through the rest of the summer going into the fall," Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said of planned discussions for Tuesday's Park Board meeting.

The board is slated to be presented reports on the golf courses during its 4:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday. Due to anticipated community interest, the board will meet in room 101, Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Drive SE.

A June discussion of the potential options for Soldiers Field Golf Course, as well as the rest of the park, saw an overflow crowd in the board's regular City Hall meeting space.

Tuesday's report by Rochester Parks and Forestry Division Head Mike Nigbur and Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish is expected to focus largely on the city's three other public courses: Hadley Creek, Northern Hills and Eastwood.

The reports stem from a February discussion of the fate of municipal golf courses in Rochester.

The Rochester City Council directed city staff to initiate continued study following a report by the National Golf Foundation, which was hired by the city to evaluate the municipal golf program.

The foundation's report cited a need for $3.6 million in upgrades throughout the four courses and pointed to several options for improving financial stability.

While a majority of the council voiced support for potentially closing one of the city's courses in January, the members didn't agree on which course should be taken out of play. Instead, they opted to maintain status quo throughout 2022 in an effort to conduct more research and measure public opinion.

The National Golf Foundation report's suggestions for work to maintain golf programs at all four courses included upgrading technology and addressing delayed maintenance.

Foundation representative Richard Singer said the suggested work was aimed at attracting more golfers to what the foundation considers an abundance of available courses. He said a typical successful ratio is 4,000 golfers per 18 holes, but Rochester has an estimated 1,242 per 18 holes.

The city saw an uptick in golf activity in 2020, amid COVID restrictions that limited other activity, but historic reports show fluctuating usage amid revenue declines.

With the desire to gather more information on the citywide program and consider all available options, the council called for continued review with the anticipation of a Park Board recommendation by the end of the year, with a possible council decision in January.

Options being considered include:

* Maintaining the current courses with a strategy that would generate $722,500 in added annual funding to address proposed improvements.

* Maintaining the current courses without increased funding, which could include reduced services.

* Finding a way to reposition a course that would optimize the city's golf program.

Specific options presented for Soldiers Field Memorial Park in June included maintaining a modified 18-hole course, reducing the course to nine holes or replacing the course with other amenities, which could include a potential new baseball stadium.

While Tuesday's presentation will be followed by a time for questions from Park Board members, Widman said the meeting isn't intended to solicit public comment on options for municipal golf.

Additional public input is expected to include a golf-related survey and opportunities for review of options at all four city-owned courses ahead of future Park Board discussion.

In addition to being open to the public, Tuesday's meeting will be recorded and a copy of the video is expected to be posted online Wednesday at

http://rochestercitymn.iqm2.com

.

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of July 11 include:

Rochester

—City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday In council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The meeting will livestream at

www.rochestermn.gov/meetings/council-meetings

and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

—Park Board, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 101, Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Drive SE.

—Energy Commission, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in room 104 of City Hall.

—Planning and Zoning Commission, 6 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers of the Government Center.