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Duluth records rare golf profit in 2021

A downsized municipal golf system operated in the black.

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Duluth’s Enger Park Golf Course reveals itself beyond Enger Tower in the foreground of this aerial photograph taken July 1, 2021. Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

The Duluth Municipal Golf program operated with just one golf course in service this year, and it did so profitably, while the Lester Park Golf Course sat idle.

"2021 will be the first year of positive financial performance in more than a decade," noted Jessica Peterson, manager of Duluth's parks and recreation division.

The Lester Park Golf Course will be back in action next year, while Duluth's other municipal course at Enger Park temporarily closes to undergo substantial renovations .

In 2024, the upgraded Enger Park Golf course is expected to reopen, and the Lester Golf Course is slated for permanent closure .

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Frank Leis, of Duluth, practices chipping the ball on a green at the Lester Park Golf Course in May 2019. Clint Austin / file / News Tribune

Duluth's municipal golf program turned a small profit this year, despite having to spend about $90,000 to minimally maintain the Lester Park Golf Course in what was initially anticipated to be a break-even year, at best.

"Thus, it's fair for us to assume that annual Duluth golf profits could comfortably surpass $200,000 annually once full course consolidation and the initial phases of Enger's renovation are complete," Peterson said.

Peterson said the solid performance of the Enger Park course this year demonstrated "the difficult but necessary decision to right-size our golf operations has been the right path forward for Duluth golf."

Through years of repeated losses, Duluth's public golf courses have accumulated about $2.5 million in debt.

The city's golf courses also have suffered from deferred maintenance.

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Duluth’s Lester Park Golf Course in July 2021. Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

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Duluth aims to address that issue with investments at the Enger Park Golf Course, including a new irrigation system, a new clubhouse and upgraded fairways and bunkers.

The city expects to issue $4 million in revenue bonds for Enger, and the city is poised to invest an additional $500,000.

At large Councilor Arik Forsman offered Peterson kudos for the golf course program's profit this year, saying: "That is not a small thing based on where we've come from, and hopefully it's an indicator of where outdoor recreation is going."

Related Topics: GOLFDULUTH
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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