Rochester Needs to Close Soldiers Field Golf Course Now [Opinion]
The Rochester Parks and Recreation Department is in the process of updating its plan for Soldiers Field Park, and I believe the only option is to close the golf course and repurpose that area into something more residents would use.
It was earlier this week that the Rochester Parks and Rec Department released the results of a consultant study conducted over the past year that presented three possible plans for improvements and updates to the master plan for Soldiers Field Park in downtown Rochester.
The first option (you can check them all out HERE) would keep the 18-hole course intact while adding new options in the northern half of the park. The second option would reduce the course to 9-holes, using the additional space and existing space in the northern half of the park to add new features and amenities. And the third option would get rid of the golf course and its facilities entirely and repurpose that space into new features like an arboretum with trails, picnic shelters, and a Riverfront Plaza.
The third option-- closing the Soldiers Field Golf Course-- is the BEST option for Rochester. While I'll admit I'm not a golfer, it seems like repurposing that space and using it for other park features, like the proposed trails, picnic shelters and possible Riverfront Plaza would all be amenities that many more Rochesterites would use.
There have been many afternoons where I've spent time in the parts of Soldiers Field park NOT occupied by the course and thought how cool it would be to be able to use ALL of that beautiful area. (We've already snowshoed on parts of the course during the winter, and being able to walk right along the river is pretty cool. It would be even cooler to be able to do that year-round!)
The Parks and Rec Board has been wondering if closing the golf course at Soldiers Field is the right move for several years now. The park's master plan from 2016 noted 'Golf is an extremely low-density use for land and most of the park is used for this purpose,' while also noting that 'active lifestyles and interest in walking paths, bicycle paths, flexible uses for open spaces and natural water elements will influence the development of the park.'
The city of Rochester already owns TWO other 18-hole municipal golf courses (Northern Hills and Eastwood Golf Club) plus the Hadley Creek Golf Course and Learning Center, so it's not like this change would eliminate ALL golf options from the Med City; golfers still have the option to hit the links there, plus there are many other privately-owned courses throughout southeast Minnesota, as well.
I understand the history involved (the area at Soldiers Field has been a golf course since the 1920's when the American Legion donated the land it purchased from Dr. Christopher Graham to the city) makes it tough to envision change, but change IS needed!
The Parks and Rec Department indicated it would continue to seek citizen input on the future of Soldiers Field Park before reaching a conclusion on which plan is best. I hope they select the third plan!