Fred Richards Golf Course
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On Thursday, Jan. 30, Edina City Manager Scott Neal and Parks and Recreation Director Ann Kattreh laid out their proposal to a standing-room-only crowd at the Braemar Golf Course Clubhouse. Their goal was to make Edina’s golf facilities stable and self-sufficient.
Their six-step plan included improvements to the Braemar facility, modifying pricing and discounts at Braemar, outsourcing ancillary services (food and grill at Braemar), expanding the course’s marketing program, improving customer service, and, most important to the roughly three hundred green-shirted residents in attendance, closing Fred Richards Golf Course.
Fred Richards, purchased by the City in 1992 as the Normandale Executive Golf Course, and the rest of the city’s golf operations are projected to lose $3.4 million by 2020.
The proposal would shutter Fred Richards at the end of the 2014 season, using the $750,000 saved to improve the Braemar golf facility.
Critics point out that currently the golf courses pay for 80% of their own operations, with the remainder coming from the Edina Liquor stores. Compared to other public services that bring in no revenue, many in attendance on Thursday argued that Fred Richards may not be in as dire straits as the city’s proposal let on. Even Neal conceded that “we’re not here to make money.”
When the forum opened to public opinion forty minutes in, passions ran high as attendees argued in favor of saving Fred Richards, cheering speakers on even after being asked not to by city officials.
Among the most commonly cited reasons for saving Fred Richards was the course’s value to Edina youth. Edina Boys’ Head Golf Coach Phil Finanger was in attendance, and although he supported the city’s plan to improve Braemar, he was not in favor of closing Fred Richards. “Fred Richards would be missed, as many pointed out at the meeting, by the youth of Edina… many boys and girls get their start there before moving to the big courses,” said Finanger.
Some suggested concessions, such as closing nine of the twenty-seven holes offered at Braemar instead of closing Fred Richards, while others complained about the rushed timetable: the public input process is scheduled to only last a month and the city is only offering one proposal.
At the meeting, EHS parent John Stang, who lives near Fred Richards and is one of the heads of the Save the Fred movement, noted that the City has been meeting with Hillcrest Development for some time. At a public meeting with the construction company in October, they had “drawings and boards… [many of which] showed Fred Richards being repurposed into parkland.”
“[The city] certainly has not been transparent and [officials] have not involved the community in any way shape or form,” Stang continued. The only member of the city council in attendance was Mayor James Hovland.
With more time, those in the Save the Fred movement “would love to develop additional recommendations and alternatives for the city council,” said Stang.
Two more public hearings are scheduled for Feb. 11 and Mar. 4 at 7 p.m.