With golf’s decline, West St. Paul debates its future

That golf is on the decline isn’t much of a story anymore; it’s been happening for years.

But as more communities close down their public golf courses, a philosophical question begins to surface: Does everything have to make money? Or even break even?

West St. Paul is trying to “revitalize” Robert Street, the miracle mile of tacky shops and endless auto parts store. And, the Star Tribune reports, it may close the course and sell it to developers.

It’s still early in the process; the city is sampling soil to see if it’s suitable for development, but the open space seems like a goner.

The city is in the midst of a controversial $41.9 million reconstruction of 2½ miles of the roadway. Redeveloping the land around it to keep and attract residents and business is the next step.

The nine-hole Thompson Oaks course is in one of those key areas called Town Center. It includes the golf course, a nearby YMCA, library and other properties along Robert Street. The River to River Green­way trail eventually will run through the area.

The golf course is one of many moving pieces in the Robert Street plan, Andrew Dresdner, a senior associate with the Cuningham Group, told council members Tuesday. The group is contracting with the city to update the plan.

People played 5,053 fewer rounds of golf at Thompson Oaks in 2014 than they did in 2005, the Star Tribune says. The city subsidizes the course at about the rate of $7 per round.

Auto parts stores? They don’t get much of a subsidy.

Minnesota Golf Association spokesman Warren Ryan said the future of municipal courses should be about more than money.

“It’s not just about whether they’re making money or not,” Ryan said. “It’s about what sort of services they provide their users.”

  • Kassie

    “Robert Street, the miracle mile of tacky shops and endless auto parts store…”

    And great restaurants. Beruit, Fireside Lounge, Pineda Taco, and that one Chinese Buffet (but not the other one) are all great, locally owned restaurants. Pollo Loco, while a chain, has some very good chicken too.

    • Ate at Beirut last week for the first time. Good service. The food was OK.

      • Jim in RF

        Pineda (and the Mercado) are two of the best taco places between Chicago and Albuquerque. Just like off the trucks in Mexico City – a little beef, onions, cilantro, squeeze of lime and some sweet radishes on the side.

  • Gary F

    Municipalities need to get out of stuff that the private sector should be handling. I get e-mails 2-3 days a week from the St Paul muni courses pretty much begging me to come golfing. These last minute deals are really cheap and they must be hurting too for business.

    The sad thing is that there are fewer and fewer “low end” golf courses where hacks like me can go without getting run over by good golfers and places where a parent can bring kids learning the game.

    • CHS

      Therein lies the contradiction though Gary, the private sector requires a profit to keep the course viable. If they don’t get one they sell to condo developers. Without the muni courses hacks like us can’t afford to play a round or take our kids out. Not without driving so far as to make it not worthwhile anyways. The only courses I can ever afford to play are the muni’s, Highland and Como, Theo Wirth, etc. That and the U of M twilight special… that’s awesome.

      If I recall the reason you’re getting bombarded from Highland is that a couple years ago the city gave the rights to run it to a private sector firm who promised they could turn a profit….

    • Should the DNR be spending any money stocking lakes for the benefit of fisherpeople?

  • Jim in RF

    I’d rather set my hair on fire than go golfing, but I don’t think that making money on a cash basis should be the one and only litmus test. Parks don’t make money, civic festivals usually don’t, most streets don’t, the dogcatcher doesn’t, but we keep them around.

    Besides (my standing joke), we’ll need to keep a couple of courses around to make it easier to round up the plutocrats when the revolution comes.