Mississippi National shuttered for 2013Most of Mississippi National Golf Links will be temporarily shuttered while officials and locals continue to discuss the future of the course.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
Most of Mississippi National Golf Links will be temporarily shuttered while officials and locals continue to discuss the future of the course.
The Red Wing City Council voted Monday to close the course, with the exception of the driving range, for the 2013 season while deliberating on long-term options for the site. The driving range will be open for the summer.
With the golf season quickly approaching, council members said it was time to decide the fate of the course for this year.
“We spoke with a lot of people and got a lot of very different opinions,” Council President Lisa Bayley said. “We have to make a decision. We can’t wait any longer.”
Hovering litigation questions were a major factor in the choice to keep the course closed this year, council members said. Mediation this month with Associated Bank — which holds a bond on the course — and former operator Wendell Pittenger was not successful, Bayley noted.
“We still don’t know what’s going on with the litigation and that’s a really major stumbling block,” she said.
The city also wants a court opinion on whether the bank can reap revenues from MNGL until a more than $1 million bond on the course is paid. Pittenger was supposed to make the payments.
“In a sense that bank issue really trumps everything for me at this point,” Council member Marilyn Meinke said.
Bayley said there are downsides to closing the course for a year, including lost revenue for the city, fewer jobs at the course and potentially losing customers. It likely also will be harder to re-open MNGL.
“You usually have a hard time bringing that type of business back,” Council member Dean Hove said.
The city plans to pay for minimal maintenance so it will be possible to operate the course in the future.
Between those maintenance costs, property taxes and other expenses, the city estimates it will pay about $375,000 toward MNGL this year. The cost for the driving range is unclear, but Bayley said the high school golf groups that asked for it to remain open might fundraise to cover some expenses.
The decision Monday was a slight departure from the city golf course committee’s recommendation to keep the entire course closed for the 2013 season.
Council members passed on a suggestion to open the lower 18 holes of the 36-hole course for 2013. They also declined to enter into a five-year lease agreement with the Red Wing Municipal Golf Corporation, a local nonprofit that has proposed running the course.
The golf course committee previously had considered working with the group for one year, but RWMGC said that was not economically feasible.
For any option to keep the course open, startup and repair costs were a concern. Improvements are needed at the course and all the equipment was auctioned after it closed last fall.
RWMGC president John Kjolhaug said the group has about $39,500 in membership fees collected and $89,000 in pledges, and equipment rental costs were lower than originally anticipated. But he also added there is little cushion for costs such as capital improvements.
Bayley said the group still could emerge as an option in the future.
The city’s golf course committee will work on a long-term plan for the course that will include public input and participation. Part of that process will include a request for proposals to manage, run, buy or offer other options for the course’s future.
Bayley said the goal is to have a clearer plan for moving forward by Aug. 1. “I think we have to all know that that’s aggressive,” she said.
Red Wing 2020 is planning a community forum on Mississippi National at 6 p.m. March 19 in the Sheldon Theatre.
Council members met in closed session for about 25 minutes Monday to talk about the litigation before publically discussing MNGL.
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