What is the MPRB Proposing for
Hiawatha Golf Course?
Part 2 - Why Golf Is Out!
The April 2017 Meeting for Public Input?
The MPRB Says - Their Impact Assessment document presents a lot of information that the MPRB says they gleaned from the April 20, 2017 public meeting the purpose of which was to determine what the public wanted for future uses of the golf course property. The information presented indicates that there was a lot of support for these alternative uses of the golf course property.
Our Concerns - The information provided in this document is not representative of the people who attended this meeting. Probably half, if not more, of the people at that meeting were there to support the retention of the 18-hole golf course. But, you don't see that represented in this explanation of what happened there. The meeting was tilted towards Alternative B, with directions to talk about any uses other than the 18-hole golf course. And, many people were quite confused about what they were supposed to do, creating a level of contention between factions for and against the 18-hole golf course. In fact, one person got up at the end and said that he felt the MPRB was pitting neighbors against neighbors in these meetings, meaning golfers against non-golfers. He received a hearty round of applause. Many people left this meeting, thinking that it was a big waste of time, and wondered why it had been held at all.
Let's put out inaccurate information about golf. People will buy it!
The MPRB Says - "The annual average rounds played per year for the twenty year period 1997-2016 is 40,800; however in the most recent six years impacted by flooding and wet conditions as well as changes in the market, the average [for Hiawatha Golf Course] was 23,800 rounds per year." p. 31
Our Concerns - This 6 year average is meaningless because 2 years of partial closure (2014-2015) have been lumped with 4 years when it was not closed. The 2 years of partial closure are total anomolies and should not be included in any statistics for a greater time period. If they are, you have bogus and misleading data.
The MPRB Says - For Hiawatha Golf Course " the average annual net revenue for twenty year period is $120,000; however, this includes the past 6 years which were impacted by wet conditions, flooding and recovery, resulting in a reduction of the number of holes available for play. The average net revenue for the golf course for the period prior to wet and flooded conditions was $250,000 per year, while the average net revenue for the 6 years impacted by the wet conditions was a loss of $180,000 per year." p. 31
Our Concerns - Again, this data is misleading, since it lumps together 2 years when the golf course was partially closed (2014-2015) with years when it was open, thus making it look like the golf course revenues for the years 2011-2013 and 2016 were much less than previous years. Meadowbrook Golf Course has been fully closed for almost 4 years due to flooding in 2014, yet that golf course is now back in operation with no threat of closure.
The MPRB Says - MPRB course[s] have experienced a decline in [the] number of rounds played and net revenue from golf over the past 20 years. - p. 30
Our Concerns - If you look at the graph provided, you will see the lowest number of rounds occured in 2014 when 2 of the 6 MPRB golf courses were closed due to flooding. In 2015, rounds increased even though Hiawatha golf course was partially closed and Meadowbrook golf course was fully closed. In 2016, rounds decreased a little, while Meadowbrook was still closed. A more accurate tally would be by each golf course, rather than mixing all golf courses together. This would give an idea of which ones are most viable. Also, the past 20 years have been heavy recession years that affected spending on everything, not only golf. So, how does the recession affect these numbers, in other words, you can't necessarily blame the lower rounds of golf on a declining interest; it could be from a failing economy. When the economy recovers, golf will likely recover along with spending on other activities.
The MPRB Says - "Hiawatha Golf Course is operating at 47% of its capacity," based on rounds per year for 2010-2013, p. 31
Our Concerns - This is a number with no context. No golf course operates at 100% of capacity. General parks do not operate at 100% of their capacity either. Just like golf courses, general parks are more empty while people are working and more full on the weekends. Hiawatha Golf Course should be looked at in relation to other golf courses in the area or golf courses in general, and how it fares in relation to a general park. If this information were presented, the capacity of Hiawatha Golf Course could have some real context and meaning.
The MPRB Says - "The Hiawatha Golf Course is used by the golf teams from three local high schools." p. 32
Our Concerns - This is incorrect. Hiawatha Golf Course is used by golf teams from 5-7 area high schools.
The MPRB says - "Conventional organized sports are anticipating modest growth" with an "increasing trend towards non-traditional sports". They list some of these non-traditional sports as skateboarding, lacrosse, rugby, pickle ball, and rock-climbing. p. 33
Our Concerns - Under Alternative B, there will be less available land for these sports, but any available land will still have to be manicured green space which will be no different than a golf course. And, where are there hills suitable for rock-climbing on this flat property?
Our Concerns - A Washington Post article recently said that golf is one of the few sports that is trending up in participation with young people, with team sports trending downwards. The article says, "pursuit of a college athletic scholarship has" "pushed hypercompetitive selection processes into younger age groups" and "has caused major losses for the "big four" American youth sports: baseball, basketball, soccer and football (both tackle and flag). All four sports have suffered the most severe losses of any of the 15 team sports SFIA and Aspen surveyed. The only sports that saw growth over the past eight years were golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, and track and field." From the article, Youth sports study: Declining participation, rising costs and unqualified coaches, Washington Post, Sep 6, 2017
The MPRB says - There will be "more cross-country skiing on the golf course (winter)" for Alternative B. p. 33
Our concerns - Increasing the use of the property for cross-country skiing is more likely to occur with Alternative A than Alternative B. Alternative B will have less usable land for this sport due to the increased wetlands because people will not be able to safely ski over the new wetlands and channel for much or all of the winter season. Also, this projection for Alternative B is based on the assumption that more trails on the property will double the number of cross-country skiers in the winter. So, this number is pure speculation.
Why golf alternatives are gone from the plan!
Golf options were eliminated from Alternative B because:
The MPRB says - The 9-hole golf course option was eliminated because it was decided that is was not financially sustainable. Their supporting documentation was revenue from the Theodore Wirth Par 3. p. 39
Our Concerns - Under Alternative B, a wetland park, will not be financially sustainable either. It will be a big maintenance cost to the city taxpayers. If a 9-hole course is not profitable, it will still bring in more revenue than Alternative B, which is just parkland.
Our Concerns - Comparing a 9-hole regulation course to a 9-hole par 3 course is not valid. Many golfers only play 9-holes, like evening leagues, but they want to play a regulation course, not a par 3. So, this comparison is totally without merit.
The MPRB says - "The land requirements for a nine (9)-hole golf course (40-60 acres) with a driving range (15-18 acres) would utilize much of the upland area for Alternative B." p. 39
Our Concerns - So, the MPRB wouldn't have enough property left over, after creating the swamp, to provide for the golf course plus other, non-revenue, activities. It would be a choice between golf and the other activites. If so, this in no way precludes having a 9-hole golf course and driving range on the property. It just indicates that the MPRB does not want golf on the property; it would rather accommodate other activities?
The MPRB says - "A three (3)-hole training course and driving range (requires 37-40 acres) could be included; however, this would not likely be operated as an enterprise feature for the MPRB, meaning it would not be generating revenue, but would require costs to operate and maintain." p. 39
Our Concerns - So, use of the 3-hole training course and driving range would be open for use as a free activity? This seems unreasonable when you could generate revenue from the users. Also, it appears that other amenities in Alternative B would be treated as enterprise features such as the restaurant facility, canoe rentals, picnic shelter rentals, flex-space rentals and rental of the pavilion space. The 3-hole training course and driving range could be incorporated as part of these enterprise features. Otherwise, the MPRB's reasoning is just an excuse for eliminating any golf on the premises.
The MPRB says - "Based on recent trends, a stand-alone driving range is not attractive to new golfers." p. 39
Our Concerns - Where does this information come from? There is no supporting documentation or context given for this statement.