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Change for Soldiers Field course suggested after Rochester golf review

Consultant points option for improving course or scaling back future.

Drone Soldiers Field
The future of Soldiers Field Golf Course is again up for discussion by the Rochester park board and city coucil.
Andrew Link / Post Bulletin file photo

ROCHESTER – An assessment by the National Golf Foundation shows a variety of options could be in play for Soldiers Field Golf Course.

“The city would likely benefit from a full re-evaluation of the Soldiers Field GC property, as aging infrastructure and limited property size are challenging the city’s future in golf,” states the recently released 136-page report commissioned by the Rochester City Council.

The recommendation for review comes as the city is in the middle of revisiting its park proposals initiated in 2014, which sparked discussion of reducing golf in the park when it was released.

The golf foundation report said reduction to a 9-hole course or elimination of the city’s centrally located golf course are options, along with investing in enhancements.

Doing nothing doesn’t appear to be advised, according to the report that will be discussed during a joint meeting of the City Council and the Rochester Park Board at 3:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

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“The city may find that the key decision in the future of this golf system is what to do with Soldiers Field, with enhancement, reduction or closure all being viable options,” the report states.

Created in the 1930s, the Soldiers Field municipal course is the city’s oldest.

The National Golf Foundation said the course is operating with key systems that are past their expected useful life, but the course is functioning at an acceptable level for less-serious golfers, who make up the bulk of its customers.

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The existing (Soldiers Field) golf course is a good fit in the Rochester City system, the report states, pointing to the potential for addressing needed upgrades.

“The shorter-length 18-hole golf course provides a simple golf design with less challenge that appeals to less-skilled and less-serious golfers, many of whom are seniors and active in one (or more) of the many leagues that use this golf course.”

Many of those golfers voiced concerns about proposed changes related to 2014 discussions, and the city’s Parks and Recreation department eventually delayed further discussions.

The City Council, however, sought the National Golf Foundation input to determine whether the overall municipal golf program could be improved.

07-08 soldiers field golf course sj.jpg

The consultant said the 63 holes of golf are well run, but recent staff reductions have created challenges for operations.

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“The city may find that continuing to operate four golf facilities with only seven full-time staff is not sustainable for the long-term financial health of the system,” the report states, suggesting at least three new hires for maintenance and operations.

While the report recommends $3.6 million in potential improvements, largely to the Northern Hills and Eastwood course, in the next five years, it points to potential savings in scaling back the number of courses.

“If the city were to close the Soldier Field GC, the economic situation in golf is projected to improve through reduced expenses,” it states.

The Soldiers Field course has averaged the highest number of rounds played among the city’s four municipal courses since at least 2016, but the National Golf Foundation predicts the other courses would absorb approximately 50% of the rounds played on the downtown course.

Projections suggest closure would reduce citywide golf revenue by $125,000 to $147,000 after 2024, but expenses would drop by $267,000 to $280,000, for an overall savings that could be as much as $155,000 a year.

The City Council and Park Board aren’t expected to make any decisions Monday.

A proposed evaluation process would maintain the golf program through this year, with a potential final recommendation after the season. It calls for a final decision by Jan. 15 next year.

In addition to discussing the golf program, the joint meeting of the City Council and Park Board will include an update on a possible plan to accelerate park improvements funded by the voter-approved tax levy.

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UPCOMING MEETINGS

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of Jan. 10 include:

Rochester 

• Police Civil Service Commission, 3 p.m. Monday. Access information is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas

• City Council and Park Board joint study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

• Charter Commission, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Access information is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas

• Police Policy Oversight Commission, 3 p.m. Wednesday. Access information is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas

• Energy Commission, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Access information is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas

• Planning & Zoning Commission, 6 p.m. Wednesday. Access information is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas

Olmsted County

• Human Rights Commission, 6 p.m. Thursday in conference room 2 of the city-county Government Center.

• Zoning Board of Adjustment, 7 p.m. Thursday in the board chambers of the city-county Government Center.

• County Commissioners’ annual meeting with state lawmakers, Cascade/Whitewater Room at 2100 Campus Drive SE.

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