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.”