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Archive for Monday, May 22, 1995

GOLF-COURSE PLANS TEE UP AGAIN

May 22, 1995

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Building a municipal golf course on land at Clinton Lake will return to public debate Tuesday night at city hall.

Lawrence city commissioners will consider lacing up their spikes Tuesday night for building a municipal golf course, but teeing off on specific proposals could be months away.

At least three commissioners support asking private companies to draw up proposals for building an 18-hole course south of the dam at Clinton Lake.

Commissioner John Nalbandian plans to ask for the entire commission's support during its weekly meeting, which begins at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.

The way Nalbandian sees it, Topeka, Salina, Winfield, Junction City and Manhattan all have municipal golf courses, and all of them make money. Why shouldn't Lawrence?

"I just don't see that there's this high risk," he said this morning. "High risk is doing public transportation. Expanding the swimming pool to pay for itself is high risk. ... There's no sure thing, but golf courses pay for themselves."

The course in question would cover about 180 acres just south of the dam, west of Douglas County Route 458. For seven years commissioners have considered plans for a course there, even hiring consultants to evaluate the possibilities for operating at a profit.

In each case the conclusion has been the same: Yes, making money is a possibility but not a sure thing.

"Feasibility studies are basically equations where you plug in numbers," said Mayor Bob Moody, who isn't yet sold on the idea of building a course. "They may or may not have any bearing on real life."

Moody wants reasonable assurances -- "I don't need guarantees," he said -- that taxpayers won't have to pick up the tab for a course that could be underused or cost too much to maintain. Commissioner Bonnie Augustine also said she had too many unanswered questions to commit to building a course.

But Commissioner Allen Levine said he supported the effort not only to send out requests for proposals, but also to approve one soon.

"It really is time to have a municipal golf course," Levine said. "It doesn't have to be an Alvamar. It just needs to be a good course that people can go out on. I'm comfortable it will make money."

Commissioner Jo Andersen said she was leaning toward supporting development of a course, but she sees absolutely no harm in asking companies to draw up proposals.

A municipal course with affordable greens fees -- Nalbandian figures on $12 to $15 per round -- would mean better access for all aspects of the community, Andersen said.

"Golf is a kind of common language," she said. "If you can play golf, you can talk to CEOs and you can talk to people in other countries. It's a great opportunity."

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