Golfers' Issues with M P R B / Loppet M O U

The following document was submitted to the Park Board on April 27, and was provided to Parkwatch by the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3:

Golfers’ Issues with MPRB/Loppet MOU

MOU Version submitted for May 1, 2013 committee meeting

Submitted by the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3
April 27, 2013

Issues Regarding the Wirth Par 3:

1) MPRB staff to continue to manage the Par 3:  The new documents do not contain the statement that MPRB staff will manage the Par 3 activities out of the new Welcome Center.  This was a key issue discussed at the meetings in February and golfers had been given full assurance that the management of the Par 3 would not be put in the hands of Loppet personnel. While this might be covered in the details of a subsequent document it is important enough to be included as a specific statement in the MOU and in the resolution adopting the MOU.

2) Golfers not represented on the Silent Sport Center/Building Management Committee:  At the meetings in February the MPRB staff indicated that Par 3 golfers would be among the Welcome Center user groups that would be represented on the Silent Sports Center/Building Management Committee. The new MOU includes only the Loppet Foundation, MPRB staff and vendors on the committee.  Golfers and other user groups must be represented on this committee.

3) Snow making and grooming for winter activities must be moderated to prevent additional harm to the Par 3 course and Par 3 revenues: It is an objective fact that winter activities on golf holes, especially snowmaking and grooming, has a negative impact on a golf course and on golf revenues.  This has been part of the rationale for relocating the 17th and 18th holes on the 18 hole course. And yet the MPRB continues to expand ski trails and increase snowmaking on the Par 3.  Past history indicates that the Par 3 is ready to open for golf in the spring at the same time that the front 9 of the 18 hole course is ready. This spring, 2013, when the front 9 opened, the Par 3 was not ready because there was still snow on areas where snowmaking occurred for ski trails.  It appears that more aggressive snowmaking during the winter has caused this additional delay. And now the MOU talks about “greater consistency of early-season snowmaking” which is likely to have the effect of shortening the golf season in the fall as well.  To the best of our knowledge the MPRB has no written standards for winter maintenance, snowmaking, grooming, etc. Such standards would help protect the golf courses as well as other park grounds and eliminate significant revenues losses, especially in view of the prospect that Loppet staff may replace MPRB staff for these functions.. If the MPRB plans to continue to expand snowmaking and trails at the expense of the golf courses then, at the minimum, they should impose a surcharge on winter activities to replace lost golf revenues and cover the increased golf maintenance expenses.

4) Adequate separation between Par 3 holes and Silent Sports Center activities must be maintained:  While the 22 acre area is an estimate and the map attached to the MOU is only intended to be a rough representation we must repeat our concern about separation.  The woods behind the 8th green and 9th tee, and along the north edge of the 9th hole of the Par 3 are a necessary buffer between the course and any silent sports activities in the area.  This separation ensures playability for golf and a safety zone protecting skiers, bikers and other park users. These trees should not be removed and event and hiking trails should not be put in these woods. Similarly, group activities in the silent sports center area must be far enough away from the existing Par 3 1st tee so as not to cause any interruption in play.

5) The Welcome Center Building must include some essential Par 3 requirements: The MOU lists a Concierge/ticket counter for golf which may be included in the building but fails to list golf club rental and golf cart (hand and motorized) rental functions which also must be included in the facility.  The other public facilities, including the locker rooms, must also be available to golfers.

6) The Par 3 building can not be demolished prematurely: Section IV-C indicates that the Par 3 building should be demolished after the Foundation has raised the $3 Million in donations. But the Par 3 building can not be demolished until after the new Welcome Center Building is completed and in operation.

Issues Regarding the Wirth 18 hole course:

1) Alternative Financing Strategies for funding the 18 hole course redesign should not come from the limited resources of the Enterprise Fund: MPRB management, staff and various Commissioners have acknowledged that required renovation, as well as some maintenance, of the MPRB golf courses has been delayed for a long time.  Enterprise Fund profits from golf and other activities have regularly been transferred from the Enterprise Fund to pay off bonded debt, to help reduce the tax levy, and to help cover the regular losses incurred by Winter Activities.  In 2013 the MPRB will finally initiate a program to study the needs of the golf courses and develop a plan to bring them back to the standards that should be maintained. But if there are no available monies in the Enterprise Fund then there is little chance that this restoration work can be done.  Were it not for the plan to have a Welcome Center and Silent Sports Center area, a redesign of the back 9 of the 18 hole course would not have even been considered.  From a golfer’s perspective a renovated back 9 is desirable. No redesign is needed.  If the redesign does occur, funding must come from a source other than funds which normally would be available for the golf courses.

2) The Theodore Wirth Golf Association should be represented on the 18 hole Golf Course Project Management Team:  For the Welcome Center and Silent Sports Center area the Loppet Foundation is represented on both the Project Management Team (through construction) and Project Management Committee (design phase). But the MOU states that the Theodore Wirth Golf Association members will be represented only on the 18 hole Golf Course Project Management Committee (design phase) and not on the Project Management Team (through construction). That Project Management Team will consist only of MPRB staff. Who does the MPRB staff expect to go to if a user related issue comes up during construction?  The Theodore Wirth golfers have contributed more funds, by a wide margin, in golf fees to support their course than the Loppet Foundation has ever raised in contributions or paid in fees for its activities.  There is no excuse for not having the golfers represented during the full term of the 18 hole Golf Course Project for the back 9.

3) The MOU appears to presume that construction may proceed on the Silent Sports Center area and the 18 hole course redesign before or whether or not the $3 Million is eventually raised for the Welcome Center building. If there is no Welcome Center building there is no need to relocate holes 17 and 18 and therefore there should be no Silent Sports Center area on that ground:  The Welcome Center and Silent Sports Center Area project started out as a plan which would shorten, or require the redesign, of the back 9 on the 18 hole course AND eliminate the Par 3. After objections from the golf community and confronting some realities the plan was recast to emphasize the primary importance of building the Welcome Center.  In an effort to gain support among golfers we were told that the Welcome Center could be built without making the changes to the Back 9. And, if a redesign of the Back 9 eventually did occur, golfers would be fully represented and fully satisfied with that effort. But again there proved to be too many problems with that plan. Now we have a new version of the plan that says we should go ahead with the bike event trails and the Silent Sports Center area plan even if the Welcome Center can not be built.

It is as though any part of the Foundation’s plan is more important than the golf course and justifies the disruption, revenue loss, and loss of historic golf holes which would occur.  This is not acceptable. To put is simply, this approach makes it clear that Loppet activities are important and golf is not. And yet this new plan still has too many unresolved problems to list here. The MPRB and the Loppet Foundation should start from the beginning and come up with a fresh plan which meets needs that is simpler, lest costly, is certain of funding, is not destructive,  and is developed on a cooperative basis with other park users.