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Soldiers Field update calls for $10 million pool upgrade while holding off on most golf course changes

Several council members voiced a desire to maintain 18 holes at the golf course.

Drone Soldiers Field
Soldier’s Field Golf Course in Rochester on June 20, 2017.
Post Bulletin file photo
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ROCHESTER — Continued renovations to Soldiers Field Park would largely leave the existing golf course intact for at least three years.

“Our primary concern is everything north of the golf course,” Rochester Park and Recreation Director Paul Widman told Rochester City Council members as they reviewed a proposed update to the park’s master plan.

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The plan, which was created in 2014, calls for the phased reduction of the Soldiers Field Golf Course from an 18-hole course to a nine-hole facility, but no time frame was established for the transition.

With a three-year plan that focuses on replacing and expanding the existing pool facility, along with adding pickleball courts, expanding trails and other enhancements, would modify up to five holes on the golf course, but keep 18 holes in play.

“We tried to minimize those as much as we could,” said Rita Trapp, an associate with Minneapolis-based HKGI, a consultant hired to update the existing master plan.

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The potential changes to the golf course would be made to double the footprint of the city’s pool, to add a variety of other aquatic facilities, including possible splash pads and a lazy river.

The project is estimated to cost $10 million.

Trapp said the expansion to 70,000 to 80,000 square feet is most logical to the south of the existing facility, which would encroach on the golf course.

Soldiers Filed Park update pic2.jpg
A proposed map of an updated Soldiers Field Park master plan shows potential additions to the park.
City of Rochester

Mike Nigbur, the city’s parks and forestry division head, said final decisions on the status of the golf course are largely on hold as the Parks and Recreation Department and Rochester Park Board review options related to all four city golf courses.

While the proposed three-year plan seeks to limit changes to the golf course, several council members focused on the possibility as a crowd of nearly 40 golf advocates attended Monday’s study session.

“I think we need to stick to the 18 holes and stick to the golf plan, where we are doing a scientific survey,” he said of a process that started this month.

Nigbur said community engagement related to the master plan pointed to a potential change for the Soldiers Field Golf Course.

“The vast majority of people said they wanted to see a change in golf,” he said.

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Council members pointed out that the Park Board is holding a public hearing regarding the city’s golf operations at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Mayo Civic Center, and some questioned whether shifting the space for other park uses is a good move.

“We would be replacing something that pays for itself with something that we have to pay to maintain,” council member Mark Bransford said of the plan’s proposal to create open and natural spaces on the west side of the Zumbro River.

At the same time, council member Molly Dennis said she’s been hearing from residents who want more park space for other activities.

“A lot of people who use the parks in Ward 6, and the people I’ve talked to, don’t have golf clubs or pickleball paddles,” she said. “They come to the parks for places of belonging, They come for events and connection, so I think we need to make sure we keep green space available.”

Council President Brooke Carlson urged the council to focus on the first three years of the update, since it was the work with planned funding sources, which include $10 million in potential state Destination Medical Center funding, $5 million in federal grants and $2.5 million to $3 million from the parks referendum.

“This is an opportunity for DMC to invest in a true community asset,” she said, noting the state’s DMC Corp. board is slated to discuss the 2023 spending plan on Thursday.

Nigbur said any potential changes to the number of holes at Soldiers Field Golf Course would occur after the three-year plan update was initiated, unless directed otherwise by the council or Park Board.

Other aspects to the long-term Soldiers Field Park plan that would be delayed until future funding is available include potential realignment of streets and the creation of an arboretum space.

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What happened: The Rochester City Council reviewed a proposed update to the Soldiers Field Park master plan.

Why does this matter: The proposed update would expand the city's pool facilities in the next three years, while delaying a proposal to reduce the number of holes at Soldiers Field Golf Course from 18 to nine.

What's next: The Rochester Park Board will review the proposed plan update on Oct. 4.


Soldiers Field Park Master Plan Update Draft by randy on Scribd

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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