Duluth Needs Upgrades to Courses

A consultant's report recommends that the city of Duluth invest millions of dollars to upgrade its municipal courses. The Minnesota city on Lake Superior, with a population of around 280,000, has two 27-hole muni golf facilities, Enger Park and Lester Park.

John Wait of National Golf Foundation Consulting Inc. said that the city's first priority should be to demolish Enger Park's clubhouse - which he described as "horrible" - and build a new one, adding that a replacement structure would cost about $1.35 million.

In comments to reporter Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribute, Kathy Bergen, manager of Duluth's parks and recreation department, agreed with Wait's assessment. "We've known for years that clubhouse was inadequate. It's not accessible, and we know it needs to be replaced," she said.

Wait also found that Enger Park needs a new irrigation system, another big ticket item estimated to cost $1.5 million. The current watering system is over 30 years old and takes a beating during Duluth's harsh winters.

"As cool as we think our summers are up here, the grass dries out pretty quickly," Jeff Anderson, operations manager for Duluth's parks and recreation, told Passi, adding that an upgraded irrigation system would help maintenance staff sustain a higher quality to Enger Park's greens and fairways.

Wait also suggests other improvements at Enger Park, including upgrades to the drainage system, greens, bunkers and cart paths. With the addition of two new on-course restrooms, the revamping of the facility - based on Wait's full laundry list - rises to $4.3 million.

Wait recommends making about $2.9 million in improvements at Lester Park. These would include clubhouse upgrades, a new irrigation system and new on-course restrooms.

But he said Enger Park should be the primary focus, at least initially. "Enger Park has potential to become a cash cow, in my opinion," Wait told Passi.

The two facilities do pretty well during Duluth's short golf season. In 2010 Enger Park hosted about 57,000 rounds, while Lester Park had about 45,000. Both courses broke even this year, according to Bergen.

Duluth has nearly paid off the improvements made to its courses 20 years ago. In 2012, it will eliminate the final $233,000 debt payment, thus making it easier for the city to assume new debt for capital improvements.

For Passi's full story, visit http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/215264/group/sports/.