Commissioners also agreed to move ahead with plans for leasing 1,515 acres of federal land near Clinton Lake for recreational use.
Private companies will get the chance to make a multimillion-dollar bid for building a municipal golf course near Clinton Lake, Lawrence city commissioners decided Tuesday.
In a unanimous vote, commissioners asked staffers to draw up a set of specifications for building a public golf course in Lawrence.
Commissioner John Nalbandian said he hoped to see a draft document -- called a request for proposals -- within a month. The city then would make it available to the estimated 100 companies nationwide that design, build and operate municipal golf courses.
Whether the commission will agree to build a course remains up in the air. Soliciting proposals is not the same as approving one.
"We'll know when we're committed," Nalbandian assured fellow commissioners. "We ought to take a step in this direction."
Commissioner Allen Levine added support to Nalbandian's push. Providing diverse recreational opportunities is a responsibility of government, Levine said, and that doesn't mean opening a course for the rich and powerful.
"We're not talking about building a course that's, pardon the pun, on par with Alvamar," Levine said.
Nalbandian envisions a much leaner 18 holes, catering to the average golfer: fairly open fairways, few sand traps, a water hazard or two and quick play for everyone.
"Affordable, accessible golf for the average golfer," he said. "You're not going to lose a lot of balls."
But other commissioners are concerned about losing something else: city tax money.
Mayor Bob Moody and Commissioner Bonnie Augustine did not object to soliciting proposals for a course, but they did note concerns about financial issues.
While previous studies have indicated that a municipal golf course likely would pay for itself through user fees, Augustine said, she's still not convinced.
Moody agreed and expressed further reservations. The city's already talking about investing millions of dollars in other parks projects -- expanding the East Lawrence Recreation Center, building a new center in Centennial Park and expanding the Municipal Pool, for example -- that could force the city into increased maintenance costs down the road.
A new golf course, he said, could make a tough situation even more difficult.
"Perhaps we're getting too much on our plate," Moody said.
Commissioners already added to that plate earlier in their meeting, agreeing to have staffers negotiate a lease agreement with the federal government to turn over 1,515 acres of undeveloped land east of the Clinton Lake dam to the city for recreational use.
The city already has prepared a potential list of long-range uses for the land -- including two municipal golf courses -- but the official plan wouldn't be adopted until after at least one public meeting to seek input on the plan.
No meetings have been scheduled.