Hillcrest Golf Club to close, development likely

After 96 years on the East Side, Hillcrest Golf Club will close Oct. 31. The St. Paul Pipefitters Union Local 455, which owns the course, is planning to sell it to developers

The Hillcrest Golf Club, a longtime fixture in the Northern Hayden Heights neighborhood on the East Side, recently announced to members that after 96 years it will be shutting down. 

The club, located at 2200 Larpenteur Ave. E., will close Oct. 31.

The main reason for the closure of the private club, which relies on fees paid by members, is decreased membership.

In 2011, St. Paul Pipefitters Union Local 455 purchased the golf club for $4.3 million. The sale included an agreement stating the property would stay as a golf course for at least two years. 

After six years, four years longer than the agreement, the union has decided to sell.

In a letter sent out to members earlier this summer, the union stated it had covered operating losses each year it has owned the course, while making upgrades to facilities with the hopes of attracting new members.

Rick Magler, the business manager for Local 455, said the union tried reducing membership costs, remodeling the clubhouse and purchasing new equipment for the golf course. 

“It’s just the economic climate of the golf business,” said Magler. “It’s a dying sport.”

In the letter, the board and owners explained that for a club to be financially stable, at least 300 members are needed. 

“Ultimately, we concluded that there was not a path to move membership levels to 200 golf members in the near term, and 300 long term,” the letter read.

Magler said many members left after the union acquired the golf club in 2011, as rumors spread that it was going to sell the property right away.

“It’s amazing how rumors fly,” he said.

Magler said the union is currently in discussions with several developers who will purchase the 110 acres to most likely build a variety of housing, a senior center, and perhaps a medical complex. 

Magler said while it is difficult to see the course go, “It’s our goal to make it an asset to the community, no matter what goes on.”


On a dying sport

Local 455 isn’t the only entity grappling with the dying golf business.

Earlier this month the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted to reduce pumping at the Hiawatha Golf Club in south Minneapolis, shrinking it from an 18-hole to a 9-hole course.

The park board will take the next year to decide whether to completely close the course. 

The course flooded in 2014, with heavy rains damaging the site. After the flooding, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources found the course was pumping more than double what it was authorized to pump into Lake Hiawatha each year — 242-million-gallons of water instead of the DNR-approved 94 million gallons.

In addition, a recent Pioneer Press article said that since 2003, at least 37 golf course have closed around the state, a signal of the sport’s tough times.

Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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