By a 5-0 vote Wednesday night, members of Duluth’s Public Golf Committee registered their support for a plan to reinvigorate the Enger Park Golf Course, as the city winds down operations at Lester Park, the home of its only other municipal golf course.
A recommended $7.1 million proposal will now advance to the Duluth Parks and Recreation Commission for its consideration later this month.
But the city will need to solve some big funding gaps to bring the plan forward. At present, it looks like Duluth will be able to finance the project with no more than $4 million in bonds, based on anticipated revenue growth at Enger Park over the next 20 years, said city parks and recreation department manager Jessica Peterson.
Land sales could provide additional revenue. But efforts to sell the existing driving range at Enger Park to a housing developer in hopes of relocating the practice area have been abandoned, due to the prohibitive costs involved.
The prospects of selling land at the soon-to-be closed Lester Park Golf Course remain brighter, however. Peterson informed members of the golf committee Wednesday night that the city is looking to transfer control of 37.5 acres of prime property at Lester to the Duluth Economic Development Authority, in hopes of luring development to the area.
The land to be marketed includes much of the already-closed Lake Nine series of holes, including part of Lester Park’s driving range.
While Peterson said initial interest in the property has been encouraging, she explained the details of any potential sale have yet to be determined.
“We are hopeful, but it is yet too soon to know for sure,” she said.
Golf committee member Jim Sandness suggested any proceeds from the sale of land at Lester be explicitly designated to flow into the city’s golf fund, where it could be used to support improvements at the Enger Park course.
“It’s certainly going to be in the minutes of this meeting that this body, this committee, expects that any sale of past golf property, as has been expressly stated in the past that those funds would be allocated toward the renovation of Enger. I mean, that has been our understanding from the word ‘go.’ And to leave any wiggle room, I think is a mistake, to put it mildly,” Sandness said.
Project Coordinator Todd Armbruster said studies and analysis indicated “an oversupply of golf and poor course conditions, failing infrastructure and insufficient funds to pay for both courses to be financially sound.”
Pending plans call for a downsized Lester Park Golf Course to remain open through 2023, when the Enger Park course would be closed to allow for major improvements with its reopening slated for 2024.
Peterson said improving Enger’s inadequate and failing irrigation system remains a top priority, followed closely with the replacement of an inefficient and unsatisfactory clubhouse.
The city proposes to tackle improvements at Enger in phases, with additional steps to improve 11,800 linear feet of golf cart paths, improve grass conditions, upgrade the driving range, rework some tees and reconfigure several bunkers.