Mississippi National Golf Links| Why Sell?

The threshold issue is whether Mississippi National, our public asset, should be sold.  The City claims it is losing $200,00/yr on the course.  I see this instead as a cash flow problem that might easily be remedied.

Financial data is being analyzed to ascertain whether the City is in fact incurring those losses.  Part of any loss is  attributable to the terms of the current lease which calls for the City to make capital improvements and to be reimbursed by the Lessee at 4% per year for 20 years.  The current 2008 lease essentially makes the City the Lessee’s banker.  I believe the City could bond the cost of the capital improvements over the next 20 years, thus lowering the front end costs, level out cash flow, and reduce current “losses.”

There are those on the Council who believe we should not own a golf course; the reality is, we do.  The clear will of the people approved the course with a 69% majority. The people have spoken and a fiduciary duty is owed to the public by the Council to ensure the continued operation of this public course. A sale should be an absolutely last resort, not the first option.

To my understanding, local organizations such as the Visitors Bureau, Downtown Main Street, and the Chamber have not weighed in on the issue, nor have they been asked what they think of the sale and potential loss of the golf course. How about the school district as students practice and compete at the course? Has the economic benefit of the course to local business been even considered?

Many in the public have legitimate fears that if the course is sold we will sooner or later see developers come in and carve it up for condos, townhouses, retail, and office space.  For example, if sold, how long would a deed restriction be enforceable?  Who would enforce it?  There are also legal challenges to deed restrictions available to subsequent purchasers.

The best and only real protection for the people of Red Wing and their grandchildren to have a public golf course in the future is for the City to retain ownership.

The City is still refusing to release the appraisal which both the City and the Lessee have.  So the bank is entitled to the appraisal, the Lessee, the city staff and Council are entitled to the appraisal, but the public who owns the golf course?  NO.

A group of citizens asked to have this matter placed back on the upcoming council agenda but were refused by Council President Rauterkus. With an anticipated closing date in mid-May, if feels as if the public is getting slow-walked.

By the way, I’m not a golfer, nor were most of the voters that approved the course.

Comments appreciated.



Filed under Accountability, Economic Development, Minnesota, Mississippi National Golf Links, Red Wing, Red Wing City Council

5 responses to “Mississippi National Golf Links| Why Sell?

  1. Michael Halvorson

    I have been following the debate between supporters of the Mississippi National Golf Club and the actions of the City Council to sell the course. It is unfortunate situation brought about by basically by lease and lease renewals that did not favor the Citizens of Red Wing but rather the lessee.

    It has been properly stated that in 1984, 27 years ago, the Citizens of Red Wing voted to have a public golf course. This vote was made during much different economic times. Property taxes were lower, income was up, and golf courses were in much demand. I don’t recall if the vote also contained provisions that required the City to support the golf course to the tune of around $200,000/year at tax payer expense.

    The real question is whether or not the City should continue this subsidy while at the same time raising fees and taxes on other services and eliminating others because of lack of funds. If MNGC can stand on its own merit and not be subsidized, so be it and it will continue to be an asset to the City. If not, then a method by which it does not continue to drain the City coffers must be found. Whether this means a sale or closing it down, the Citizens of Red Wing, the vast majority of which are not golfers, simply cannot afford this expense. I would suggest another vote to see the results.

    I have read in an e-mail from Gary Fridell to the Council which outlines a number of conditions prohibiting the sale also states MNGC should not be subsidized. We only need to find a way to make this course self supporting. Not easy.

    • Thanks for your post Mike. As always you raise fair points. I personally don’t think the City is “losing” $200,000 a year. The structure of the lease front loaded the costs of capitol improvements. Let’s see what are the other real costs. What also must be considered is what economic benefit the course means to businesses such as restaurants, motels, etc. We spend a ton of money on economic development and this golf course is part of the attraction for the city.
      I know you are also a big supporter of open and fair process.

  2. Peter Jasperson

    Close the golf course while continuing to waste money at a garbage incinerator?
    I believe the incinerator wastes 500,000 dollars a year.
    Sending toxins out into the atmosphere, don’t let them fool you, this stuff is lethal.

  3. Erik

    Good post Kent. To Mike H., I agree with you we need to find alternatives to make the course be self-sustainable but everyone must understand some facts first. The City simply has not, nor is slated to in its budget, come close to this $200,000 mark. We have all the documentation to prove this. In reality the city comes closer to $60K and $70K with the majority of the money being allocated to labor (probably meaning snow removal). All the facts will be put out there soon but there is that big misconception of this mythical $200K. Again, simply does not exist in the City’s own budget. Also, MNGL is about fifth on the short list of the biggest expenditures within the Parks and Rec budget. An arbitrary hatchet? Doubtful. The City spends at least 3 to 3 1/2 times the amount on the Water Park at Colvill. There is much to show by us but all will see very plainly that selling the golf course off to save money on the budget is nothing but an empty political collar.

  4. sue

    What next will they sell, the parks and Colvill? Possibly the golf course could have been a break even situation with the proper planning. This property should be put into a land trust to prevent a rogue council from making decisions with so few years in office. We can support a red ink Port Authority and Incinerator yet not the green space future generations should have the right to enjoy? Why not stand up to this council once and for all and remind them that they are elected representatives of the people. They work for us.

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