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Teeing Up Changes: Duluth Considers Options for City-Owned Golf Courses

Updated: 06/30/2014 10:20 PM
Created: 06/30/2014 9:39 PM WDIO.com
By: Briggs LeSavage
blesavage@wdio.com

With Duluth’s golf fund deficit approaching $1.5 million, the city is considering possible changes for its two municipally owned courses.

Duluth’s Communication and Policy Director Daniel Fanning said the city has issued two Requests for Proposals- one asking for developers’ ideas for Lester Park golf course's land while the other seeks golf management companies’ interest in taking control of either or both of Lester Park or Enger Park golf courses. Fanning said no decisions have been made yet, and at this point, the city is just weighing its options.

“The city is committed to maintaining public and affordable golf, and that could take different shapes,” Fanning said. “That could mean consolidating or that could mean looking at different management at both courses.”

Lester and Enger’s courses have been operating at a combined deficit of more than $300,000 per year, Fanning said, with Lester accounting for about $240,000 of those losses. This already existing deficit plus the added cost of improvements is beyond what the city can afford, he said. “Given the weather and given some of the other national trends in golf, it's getting harder and harder for the city to maintain the status quo,” Fanning said. “So what we're saying is we are acknowledging openly and honestly that something needs to change with Lester golf. We can’t keep losing money.”

While Fanning said Enger’s course could use improvements, Lester’s needs go beyond that.

“Enger is a beautiful course, too, and the things that they need fixing at Enger almost seem like better investments. I mean, if we get them an irrigation system up there and we get them a new clubhouse, which are two very good possibilities, that's going to be a really high quality course, and folks are going to be really happy with that land in particular,” Fanning said.

As a man who golfs at Lester two times a week, Dennis Hamsher said he appreciates the course’s beauty and doesn’t want to see it taken away.

"I think it'd be a real shame to sell a prize like this,” Hamsher said. “You'd never build another Lester"

Fanning said after the city collects responses from the Requests for Proposals over the next couple months, they will then look ahead to what the best plan would be with help from community input. He also said any decision made would not affect either golf course this season.

“Hopefully we'll be better stewards of the tax payers’ dollars, and that’s the most important step we need to take…,” Fanning said.

Golfers walk to their balls after teeing off at Lester Park golf course's first hole Monday. The city is considering changes for the two municipally owned courses after funding has become an issue.

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