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Archive for Saturday, February 3, 1996

FIRM HOPES CITY FINDS COURSE ON PAR

February 3, 1996

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Lawrence residents could hit the links at home by September 1997, if city commissioners decide to tee off on a course proposal.

An Nebraska company is willing to build, manage and operate an 18-hole public golf course at Clinton Lake.

Now all the city has to do is pay for it.

Municipal Golf Inc., of Omaha, Neb., put the finishing touches this week on $4.65 million proposal to build a course on about 150 acres of federal land near the lake's dam.

"It's the kind of course that we're looking for," said John Nalbandian, a Lawrence city commissioner and lead supporter for the project. "It's a course that is going to be relatively easy to play and is going to be attractive to the average golfer."

Before anyone can tee up, however, commissioners first must set the ground rules and approve the course. They will meet to discuss the project during a study session at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.

Commissioners asked Municipal Golf to compile the proposal, saying they needed more information before deciding whether to build a course.

Commissioners generally have supported the idea of a city-owned course, provided that only course users would pay for its construction and management.

Municipal Golf's proposal sets out details for paying for the entire project with fees generated from the course itself: green fees, driving range charges, cart rentals and food and drink sales.

The proposal bases its figures on an annual average of 28,000 rounds of golf played beginning in 1998. Anything more would generate additional revenue, thus allowing for the debt to be paid off earlier.

Previous studies for city have estimated that the course could expect up to 40,000 rounds a year to be played on it.

"This is workable even at a conservative estimate of how many people will play," Nalbandian said. "There's no guarantees, but ... I think we've minimized the risk."

The risk: If fewer than 28,000 rounds are played in a given year, the city's general fund -- backed largely by property taxes -- would have to make up the difference.

The proposal from Tim Burke, president of Municipal Golf, calls for construction to begin in June and be completed in time for play by September 1997.

The project would include a clubhouse and pro shop, plus two putting greens, sand bunkers and grass bunkers for practice. A driving range would have enough room for up to 60 golfers at a time, and the parking lot would accommodate at least 165 cars.

The course itself, on the banks of the Wakarusa River, would include elevated tees, perimeter-mounded greens, sand bunkers, grass bunkers and water hazards. The design of the 6,895-yard course envisions a typical round being played in no longer than four hours.

City Manager Mike Wildgen, who serves with Nalbandian on the city's golf committee, said the proposal was reasonable but not without risk.

"You've got to treat this like a small business," he said. "You've got to build a product, and you've got to build a base of customers. It could take three, four or seven years."

A copy of the proposal is available for public review from the reference desk at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

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