Edina's Fred Richards Golf Course will close at the end of this season.

Despite petitions, legal challenges and pleas from golfers young and old, the City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to close "The Fred." In the end, financial pressures on the city's municipal golf operations trumped pleas to find a way to save the Fred.

Mayor Jim Hovland and Council Member Mary Brindle dissented, with Hovland saying that he sensed the relatively fast process to close the golf course had shaken "the trust and confidence of the public."

"This isn't to say I endorse keeping it open," he said. "But there's a rush to judgment here."

Hovland proposed taking a year to involve the public in the issue. Perhaps raising rates would help, he said. The Fred, a course that is a favorite with seniors, novice golfers and kids, is an asset in a city that is promoting itself as a healthy place to live, the mayor said.

Brindle agreed, suggesting the city delay closing the course until it is clear how costly conversion to a new park would be.

But other council members pointed to the costs for a sport that is shrinking in popularity. Braemar Golf Course, the more difficult of the city's two courses, badly needs renovation. Edina's golf courses require a $485,000 annual subsidy from municipal liquor store profits.

Member Josh Sprague pointed out that the Fred was, at best, "a break-even operation" and a park would benefit more people.

Sprague, Joni Bennett and Ann Swenson voted to close the Fred at the end of the season. With Hovland abstaining, the council also voted to start a master plan, involving neighbors, city officials and the park board, to convert the course. Members unanimously supported creating a master plan for Braemar and making improvements there.

Opponents had tried to get the state to require an environmental assessment of changes at the golf course site. The state Environmental Quality Board booted the issue back to the city, where the council voted not to do the assessment.

Many of the Fred's defenders have said they suspect the closure is linked to needing the site to treat stormwater for the planned redevelopment of Pentagon Park across the street. City officials have denied that there is any connection, and say the land will be kept as public property.