There is a new glimmer of hope for golf aficionados who have been mourning the closure last June of two flood-ravaged public golf courses in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park.
The bad news is that Hiawatha and Meadowbrook courses aren’t likely to reopen until at least 2017 after suffering $3.5 million in flood damage.
But the upside is that Minneapolis park officials and an overflow crowd of 100 golfers attending an update meeting this week say they are committed to doing more than a simple restoration. They want courses that are more flood-resistant, offer improved playing conditions and boast better facilities. These grander plans, however, will require additional money beyond the federal aid.
Just what those improvements will be hasn’t been defined. But they should be better known by Feb. 2, when the Park Board has committed to knowing more specifics.
“That’s very disappointing but it’s something we have to live with,” Douglas Stewart, secretary-treasurer of the Meadowbrook Men’s Golf Club, said of the delay in reopening courses.
Stewart and other golfers said they are willing to live with the delays in exchange for better courses. “For six months more work, they would double, triple the quality of those courses,” he said.
Meadowbrook golfer Nancy Manning said there is a lot at stake in how they rebuild the courses. “If we miss this opportunity to bring these courses back to where they could be, we’ll really blow it,” she said.
The Park Board is still trying to figure out how to finance the improvements. Assistant Superintendent Michael Schroeder said there’s a draft agreement with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, which finances water quality and stormwater control projects. The creek flows by both courses and the district already has done work upstream from Meadowbrook and plans more. Some also see a potential role for the Three Rivers Park District at Meadowbrook.
“It’s a great place for nature to store stormwater when there’s a lot of it,” said Jeff Spartz, the watershed’s interim manager. Even basic restoration work will require large amounts of money to bring back 111 acres of dead grass, six drowned greens and 98 trees, plus washed-out cart paths.
The question of spending more money on the two courses comes after a consultant report early last year about lagging golf course conditions and use. That report noted that rounds played at the seven Park Board courses dropped in half between 2000 and 2013. It recommended $34.5 million in spending to bring the courses up to par, identifying $14 million of that as critical.
Superintendent Jayne Miller, with a background in golf management, said she thinks the park system could keep all courses but the nine-hole at Fort Snelling. She wants to offer a range of courses, from beginner to championship, and has ambitions for Meadowbrook to join Gross as the top performer among the seven, although it straddles the St. Louis Park-Hopkins border.
But Meadowbrook ranks tops among the seven courses in its financial needs at $8.9 million, according to the consultant. The Colorado firm recommended a hefty increase in greens fees for Meadowbrook even before the flooding, along with a clubhouse renovation and expansion, better maintenance facilities and a driving range.The report estimated that Hiawatha needed $6.2 million in upgrades, having a substandard clubhouse, irrigation and drainage issues, and other needed renovations.
Schroeder said that Meadowbrook won’t be sold for housing or other redevelopment. He said he wants design concepts presented to the Park Board in March.