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2013 top stories: #5 - RWMGC prepares to tee off

Mississippi National Golf Links is on track to open in the spring after being closed for a season and months of uncertainty.

Red Wing Municipal Golf Corporation signed an agreement on Dec. 16 with the city of Red Wing to manage Mississippi National Golf Links, the group said. The Red Wing City Council had approved the final agreement at its Dec. 9 meeting.

The group is now working to get funds finalized, staff hired and work done at the property.

The agreement with the city says RWMGC has to show by Feb. 15, 2014, that is has a minimum of $400,000 between cash in the bank and receipts for expenses paid since the council agreed to work with the nonprofit early last month.

“I think the fundraising will soon reach that goal,” RWMGC member Kent Laugen said. “We’re very close to it.”

He said they hope to start work at the clubhouse in January. The group is also working to hire a golf professional and setting up management necessities such as marketing, accounting and other needs, he said.

RWMGC was the only respondent this fall to the city’s request for proposals to run the course. Representatives from the local nonprofit and city’s ad hoc golf course committee met multiple times to hash out a contract.

“I think the mood of the group has been positive once the RFP process started moving,” Laugen said. “It wasn’t an adversarial process, it was much more of a ‘let’s have an agreement that will become sort of an operating manual that’s going to work for both sides.’”

Among other stipulations, the agreement states the city will contribute $210,000 next year, with funds set to drop by about 25 percent annually after that during the five-year plan.

At this time last year, MNGL’s future was far more unclear. The city was involved in a lawsuit with former operator Wendell Pittenger and Associated Bank. The course was closed except for the driving range.

In September of this year, the council announced that the lawsuit had been settled. Pittenger had to pay the city and the former operator had to settle the bond issue with the bank.

The council hoped that would clear up worries for those considering submitting proposals, but still only ended up with one plan, from the local nonprofit.

Still, some council members said they want to give the nonprofit group a chance. It had been involved in the MNGL discussion long before the request for proposals.

The group’s plan goes beyond the 36 golf holes at MNGL, members say.

“We’d like the golf course to be viewed as much more than just a golf course,” Laugen said, adding the group is talking with other nonprofits, the school district and other organizations about potential partnerships. “It’s a wonderful open space.”

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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