The Gary (Ind.) Parks Department plans to issue requests for proposals to purchase the 18-hole golf course, which has struggled due to budgetary issues. If a buyer is found, it isn’t clear if the golf course would remain as it is or be turned into a different development.
Weathering budget struggles has become par for the course for the Gary (Ind.) Parks Department, especially at the South Gleason Park Golf Course. Now, city officials are planning a new course of action, the Post-Tribune, the Northwest Indiana edition of the Chicago Tribune, reported.
The park board is considering issuing requests for proposals for the golf course that’s adjacent to Indiana University Northwest. Also in the mix are the Hudson-Campbell Fitness and Sports Center and a city-owned building that’s come to be known as the city hall annex, the Post-Tribune reported.
“We’re looking at all things we own,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. “It’s part of what we’d promised—to look at every dollar that comes into the city to see if there’s a better way to still provide the service but let someone else do it.”
The city received an unsolicited offer for the golf course, Freeman-Wilson said, and that spurred the idea to advertise it and other properties to determine if there’s interest from prospective partners or buyers. She spoke with the park board on April 11, and it plans to consider her request to advertise for proposals on April 25, the Post-Tribune reported.
A drop in property tax dollars and reduced revenue from Majestic Star Casino has driven the city into a $17 million budget hole, Freeman-Wilson said. The city also paid the casino about $5.2 million linked to a court settlement on over-assessments on its two boats docked at Buffington Harbor, the Post-Tribune reported.
Still, news of the possible change in status of the 18-hole, par 71 public golf course in Gary rankled some regular golfers, the Post-Tribune reported.
“I’d hate to see them get rid of it,” golfer Howard Gift said. “There are not too many public courses where you can play and they treat you like a member.”
The parks department has long struggled to maintain all 56 of its parks. It functions on a $2.1 million budget and 11 full-time employees. In the summer, about 60 seasonal workers are added, the Post-Tribune reported.
At South Gleason, there are two employees—a groundskeeper and a superintendent who signs in golfers, answers the phone, tends to drink orders and manages the course. Volunteers help keep grass trimmed and handle other duties, the Post-Tribune reported.
The golf course predates the university, whose spokesman said has no plans to buy the course. Architect George W. Maher designed the golf course’s clubhouse in 1921 when it was known as Riverside Park. Its name later changed to honor William P. Gleason, a U.S. Steel superintendent who served as president of the Gary Park Board, the Post-Tribune reported.
Maher designed the clubhouse in a Tudor-revival style and it contained locker rooms, showers, a restaurant, bar and golf shop, amenities considered rare for the time period, observers said. The course opened in 1928, the Post-Tribune reported.
If the city finds a buyer, it isn’t clear if it would remain a golf course or be turned into a different development. Freeman-Wilson said the request for proposals doesn’t necessarily mean the golf course would close, the Post-Tribune reported.
“It could mean taking on a partner who has the economy of scale and, who, for example could get golf carts and material to maintain it cheaper,” she said.
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