Park Board is the latest to support Edina’s plan to close ‘the Fred’

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2014 - 5:55 AM
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File photo: Two golfers finished up the third hole of the Fred Richards Golf Course, which is threatened with closure as player participation numbers are down.

Photo: RICHARD SENNOTT, Star Tribune

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Edina’s Park Board has voted unanimously to support the closing of Fred Richards Executive Golf Course, a city-owned course that is heavily used by children, new golfers and seniors.

The vote Tuesday night followed testimony from more than 30 people, most of them pleading that the board move to keep the course open.

The proposal to close Fred Richards is part of a city plan to overhaul golf operations, which receive a $485,000 annual subsidy from municipal liquor store profits. City officials say golf rounds at Fred Richards and Braemar Golf Course have dropped 35 percent since 1998. They said savings from closing Fred Richards could help pay for a major renovation of Braemar, the city’s bigger and more difficult course.

Fans of “the Fred” came to the hearing wearing bright green or pink T-shirts to defend the course. Young girls who are learning golf, league players who like the relaxed atmosphere and parents who taught children to play golf at the 42-acre course testified in favor of keeping it open.

But others warned that Braemar is rapidly deteriorating and needs major renovation to hold its place among Twin Cities golf courses. Eric Roggeman, the city’s assistant finance director, said that if Fred Richards stays open, it too needs major work “and there is no pot of money” to do that work.

Park Board members said they found the city’s financial presentation convincing. Edina’s golf operation makes it one of only 13 municipal golf courses in the United States with 45 or more golf holes, a statistic that Park Board Chair Keeya Steel called “pretty crazy.” If Fred Richards stays open, city officials said, by 2020 the city’s golf fund will be $881,000 in the red even with a city subsidy.

“We have a lot more holes of golf than we can support,” said board member David Deeds. He pointed to a survey of Edina residents that showed Fred Richards was the least used piece in the park system.

“I love the passion, I love that kids play there and it’s absolutely critical that whatever happens at Braemar creates that same atmosphere,” he said. “But we can’t spend a dollar twice. We have to make the tough choice.”

The golf plan advances to the City Council on March 4.

 

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380

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