Golfers and supporters of Hiawatha Golf Club packed a Minneapolis Park Board meeting Wednesday evening, asking park officials to postpone a decision on closing the course.
The Park Board has been considering the fate of the 18-hole course in south Minneapolis as it weighs an option to reduce the groundwater pumping that keeps the area dry enough to play.
About 70 Hiawatha Golf Club supporters showed up, urging park officials to find alternatives that could solve water problems and save the course.
“Hiawatha was one of the first places that allowed people of color to play,” Bobby Warfield said. “We can solve this without closing this golf course.”
After hearing from golf course supporters, the Park Board’s planning committee voted to reduce groundwater pumping in line with a recommendation from the state Department of Natural Resources. If the Park Board gives final approval, the decision to pump less groundwater into Lake Hiawatha also means the golf course will be closed.
The Park Board is expected to take a final vote in August.
Assistant Park Superintendent Michael Schroeder said the Park Board, which has been pumping 262 million gallons of water annually, is trying to come into compliance with the state. The board has been pumping more water than allowed by its state permit.
“The driving factor is, should we be allowed to continue to pump groundwater?” Schroeder said.
The reduced-pumping option calls for pumping 94 million gallons annually.
If the Park Board decides to reduce pumping, Hiawatha Golf Course won’t close immediately.
Consultant Barr Engineering would design a new pumping system to keep adjacent homes and streets dry, according to the DNR. The pumping direction would also change.
The Park Board estimates closing and reconfiguring the golf course into a park would cost $28 million, plus $18 million over 20 years to operate and maintain. The redesigned park could include the clubhouse with an expanded restaurant, picnic facilities and other spaces that could be rented out, generating $18 million in revenue over 20 years.
It would cost $14 million to keep the 18-hole golf course and make improvements, according to Park Board estimates. Maintaining the Hiawatha Golf Club would cost $26 million over 20 years. The Park Board estimates it will generate $13 million in revenue over that time period.
Schroeder said the Park Board spends more than $20,000 each year to pump groundwater from the course.