Golf advocates make their case to Rochester Park Board – Post Bulletin
ROCHESTER – Pleas for keeping the city of Rochester’s four golf courses mixed with personal sports-related stories Tuesday during a pair of public hearings related to potential course changes and a plan update director of Soldiers Field Park.
“I think public golf in Rochester is one of the greatest things in the city of Rochester,” Jeff Fritzjunker told the Rochester Park Board as about 160 community members gathered at the Mayo Civic Center. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve lived here for 34 years.”
He shared experiences with helping coach young golfers, as well as a recent outing to Soldiers Field golf course, where he met the husband of a Mayo Clinic patient who had been in town for a week after his 32-year-old wife had a stroke.
“What he really needed was a bit of a break, and having the chance to walk four blocks from his hotel to play a round of golf meant so much to this guy,” Fritzjunker said.
He was followed by a combination of 22 others, many of whom shared the search for community connections and healthy outlets on the city’s golf courses.
Golf advocates among them also pointed to systemwide revenue of $1.74 million in 2021 as an indicator of the sport’s growing popularity in a growing city.
Rochester golfer Jeff Meyer said trends show young golfers getting involved in the sport, which underscores the need for space for current and future players.
“With the rise in popularity, Rochester would be seen as a setback rather than an advancement in what state and national trends show,” he said.
However, not all participants in Tuesday’s hearings agreed that the city park was best used by four courses, particularly when it came to Soldiers Field park.
“Looking at how the city should grow and being part of that growth myself, I wonder what voices are overrepresented and underrepresented in these discussions so far,” said Nick Miller, who lives in a neighborhood near Soldiers Field Park.
He said he thinks many people attracted to living near downtown Rochester would prefer to open green space to other uses, which was suggested as a long-term plan for the park.
Tuesday’s hearings were part of a Rochester Park Board process designed to hear the variety of opinions related to golf and potential uses of properties currently dedicated to the sport.
Rochester City Council has tasked the Board of Directors, along with Parks and Recreation staff, to review options for city-run golf with three possible outcomes:
- Maintain four courses with a source of $722,500 in additional annual revenue
- Optimization of the program with the possibility of repositioning one of the courses for another use
- Maintain current courses without additional funding
Deputy city administrator Aaron Parrish said continuing classes without new funding would be like deciding to overlook a city resource.
“We have to be good stewards of this asset, if we want to keep one course, two courses, three courses or four courses,” he said, outlining three options that could keep all four courses in play.
While a recent report from the National Golf Federation indicated that a new annual investment of $722,500 would be required to maintain and operate the four courses, Parrish said city staff believe the amount is closer to $500,000.
He said the funds could be generated in three ways: through a 0.58% increase in the city’s property tax, a $5.20 increase in fees per round of golf, or a combination of tax increases. and fees.
Several of the golfers who spoke on Tuesday said they would be willing to participate, whether by raising taxes or fees.
“We underpaid to play golf for years,” said Mark Rieder.
Larry Mortenson, former chairman of the park’s board of directors and an avid golfer, said proposed increases in season tickets over a five-year period would eventually provide an additional $350,000 for the city’s golf program.
Mortenson was part of a group of seven golfers who prepared an assessment of the National Golf Federation study as part of Tuesday’s presentation ahead of the public hearing.
He said the group agreed with the foundation that daily green fees were on target, but the cost of seasonal passes was too low.
He said a typical adult season pass costs $795 in Rochester, while a St. Paul golfer pays $1,050 for similar access to courses in that city. A season pass for Minneapolis classes costs $1,600, he added.
In addition to proposing to increase the seasonal fee, Mortenson said the group believes some of the improvements suggested by the National Golf Foundation are unnecessary.
He said key improvements – the repair of the entrance road and car park at Northern Hills Golf Course, the repair of the maintenance building at Northern Hills, the replacement of the clubhouse at Eastwood Golf Course and the completion of an irrigation system at Soldiers Field – would cost the city $2.5 million, rather than the $3.6 million the foundation has suggested spending.
“A new prioritization should be done among the many (capital improvement projects) within Parks and Rec so that no additional taxpayer dollars are needed to complete these golf projects,” he said. he stated, noting the annual funding the department receives for maintenance and upgrades throughout the park system.
Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said information gathered on Tuesday will be combined with feedback sought through a series of open house events at the city’s four golf courses, which begin Wednesday. The events are:
- 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 21 at Northern Hills Golf Course, 4721 W Circle Drive.
- 2-4 p.m. September 22 at Eastwood Golf Course, 3505 Eastwood Road SE
- 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sept. 23 at Soldiers Field Memorial Golf Course, 244 Soldiers Field Drive SE
- 4-6 p.m. Sept. 28 at Hadley Creek Golf Course, 2390 Hadley Hills Drive NE
Additionally, the city is conducting a golf-related scientific survey, with 500 random Rochester residents surveyed in the coming weeks.
A second online survey, allowing all interested residents to participate, will be conducted in October.
Jenna Bowman, the city’s director of strategic communications and engagement, said the information gathered will be presented to the park’s board of directors at its Nov. 1 meeting, with the hope that the board will make a recommendation to submit to Rochester City Council on November 1. 21.