Big plans to upgrade the University of Minnesota's golf course have been scaled back. The historic Les Bolstad Golf Course can be spiffed up for under $7.5 million, a new report says.
After criticizing a proposed $19.5 million plan as "too costly," U President Eric Kaler charged a committee in September with finding a way to revamp the 18-hole Falcon Heights course and renovate its condemned clubhouse for $7.5 million or less.
"The major issue was to contain the project cost," said Al Levine, the committee's chairman and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
The group did it, reining in upgrades to the clubhouse, in particular. Kaler gave the trimmed project his go-ahead in a letter last week. Next, the U's foundation will study whether it's feasible to raise private funds to cover the costs. Then the course could be added to a six-year capital plan.
Renovating the run-down course could cost between $3.9 million and $4.9 million, according to the committee's December report. Plans include replacing the irrigation system, resurfacing all tees, fairways and greens, and fixing drainage issues.
The report envisions the updated course as an "outdoor laboratory" that would allow the U's scientists and students to study, for example, how the right design and maintenance might reduce water runoff.
Research possibilities include: "Can architects and turf-grass scientists develop new ways to shed runoff water during winter months?"
"Our college has several people who work in the turf management area," using fields on the St. Paul campus, Levine said. "But the game doesn't happen there. This is a unique opportunity."
Levine, who doesn't golf, said he was surprised by players' and reporters' interest in the project. The moment he was put in charge of the committee, they started calling.
"People have their heart and soul in this golf course," he said.
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168 Twitter: @ByJenna