Sunday 12 February 2012

Winnipeg's Golf Courses: Action Items Part I

In the last golf post we established that Winnipeg Golf Services was, financially speaking, in a death spiral to hell, and that drastic action needs to be taken. Here are the actions:

1) sell Crescent Drive

I would have said "plow it over" except that a ballyhooed Nordik spa has already planned to move in this year, leveraging the golf course to complete it's spa/nature concept. It would be unfair to plow it over without offering them the opportunity to purchase the course. It is also unfair to city taxpayers to subsidize an unprofitable golf course for the benefit of another party. Therefore, the City should attempt to sell the course to the spa promoters or franchise owners.

2) blow up the obsolete public courses

I'm talking to you, Kildonan Park and Windsor Park. Even if you were to pump millions of dollars into restoring these courses to a reasonable condition, they will never be profitable because they are poorly designed and lacking amenities like a driving range, decent putting/chipping area and a proper club house.

Yes, there was a time when they could get away with it, but that time is gone. There is more competition now. The Meadows, Southside Golf Centre, and even Fantasy Lakes have all been built in the last 5 years or so, and provide golf experiences that are superior in their own way to the two city courses mentioned here. That leaves us with no choice but to blow up the courses.

Kildonan Park
Kildonan Park Golf Course, as you might have guessed, is right beside Kildonan Park. An organization like OURS Winnipeg might therefore suggest merging the whole space into the park, which would more than double the size of the current park. Would it double the enjoyment of the park? Probably not. Would it double the cost of the park? I suspect so, but that's not the big cost .. the big cost is the opportunity cost of forgoing other land uses, like infill development.

At the same time, we here at the Peanut are tree-huggers and like our greenspace. I personally am a fan of reclaiming our riverbanks, and am a little bit jealous of those cities that kept them as public spaces. Therefore I present the following compromise:

Extend Kildonan park along the river, up to the natural escarpment that runs through the golf course. Above the escarpment, develop it into residential housing, maybe with a few condos in the mix. I would prefer no commercial development, although I will allow the A&W on the 7th tee box to stay.

Windsor Park
There is no Windsor Park next door to this golf course, so I guess in this case the "park" refers to the course itself. But I'm not here to nitpick on the name, I'm here to tell the City what to do after we blow up the golf course.

But before I do that, I need to talk about St.Boniface golf course which is attached to Windsor Park. The two should not be looked at in isolation because the value of the two together is potentially greater than the sum of the two apart.

3) blow up St.Boniface

The golf course, not the area of Winnipeg. It's actually not a bad golf course and could be sold off, but developing Windsor Park on it's own is a little awkward because of how it's positioned. You can't make use of the lights at Cottonwood because that would bump you right in to an existing bay in Niakawa Park. Autumnwood dies at the railway track. The best way to get into that area is by extending Elizabeth Rd. across Archibald at the existing traffic lights, through the St.Boniface golf course. You just have to plow through the cemetery keeper's house first, but we'll be sure to replace it with a better one.

Again, keep the land adjacent to the river banks as park space. Windsor Park is a popular skiing area in the winter, including Winnipeg's only lighted x-country ski trail. That could be re-routed all the way north past the cemetery, right through the St.B golf course territory, making for a longer trail with more tree shelter. Skiers rejoice! The end result would be something that looks like this:

Residential development would be in high demand, and would generate some pretty good property tax revenue. Ten minutes from downtown, on bus routes, and right next to a park. Sounds pretty good to me.

There are different sorts of residential development. There are low-rise condos à la south St.Annes or just about any area on the periphery of the city. There are clusters of look-alike stucco McMansions on curvy streets with small back yards and double garages sticking out front. Infill development, I think, should be more reflective of the surrounding area. If you've ever walked around in that little neighborhood just south of Marion and west of Archibald, you'll know that it's a pleasant area with generally well-kept, but small houses. That's what I have in mind for this area -- especially the north segment. Smaller scale builds of single family homes on straight streets to maximize density. Straight streets! Imagine that!

Okay, enough about that .. what else can we blow up? I'll tell you. Later. I'm going to have to divide this sucker up into more than one post, so hold tight and check back in a few days or so.


reedsolomon.matr1x at said...

Why do we need to compromise with the Kildonan Park Golf Course? We own the damn thing, we don't need to make money off of it, just need to stop losing money. Make the whole golf course part of Kildonan Park. The area doesn't particularly need more residential lots. Besides, does anyone really want to live across the street from the SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT? Plant some more trees, make some trails, and leave it at that.

I'm surprised that all of the golf courses are losing money. How do they even cost that much in a year? Are they forced to pay property tax to the city? I suppose water and maintenance is a cost.. but such a big one?

Still, it wouldn't kill the city to leave one of the public golf courses open. With the other ones closed, the city could focus on one that's reasonably convenient and well maintained. The lack of choice will mean it would do reasonable business.

ekimsharpe said...

well done. i personally have a twisted soft spot in my heart for windsor park golf course. however, i would still vote to blow it up.

can you blow up the mushroom factory too while you're out that end of town?

cherenkov said...

@Reed: More houses are going to be built. We have a choice of building outwards or inwards. I vote for inwards because infrastructure is already in place and it increases density. It is more sustainable. However, I do have public courses in my plan ... stay tuned for part II (or maybe Part III?)

@Ekim: Thanks. I'm afraid the mushroom plant is out of scope tho.

cherenkov said...

"Are they forced to pay property tax to the city?"

The semi private courses that we lease out do pay property taxes, but only $1/year for their lease.

reedsolomon.matr1x at said...

cherenkov, still doesn't change the fact that the Stinky Shit Factory is right across the street. Plus that old rail line.. with that old bridge. I wonder if something could be done with that. It's kind of sad the way it just sits unused. I wonder if there's any profit in taking it down and recycling the steel? In any case, theres tons of space for residential in North Winnipeg still untapped.

Riverman said...

@ reed, that bridge has been abandoned since 1953. There is no profit in removing it otherwise it wouldn't be there.

Anonymous said...

The Bergman Cut-Off bridge at Kildonan Park was abandoned right after WW1. It was originally built for shipping ammunition north of the city (just in case something went boom I guess) but with the end of WW1 it was declared surplus. There was an underpass on Henderson Hwy at the railline until the early 80's and the houses on the south side of Sringfield Rd were build when they took the elevated railbed down.

I don't think you could put residential at Kildonan Park because of the sewage treament plant, as another poster has said. I would imagine the existing houses in the area were grandfathered in but there is a reason there is 1km of separation between houses and the south end plant off the Perimeter Hwy.

cherenkov said...

It that treament plant is going to be a problem, then I suppose the plans would have to be changed. I am not 100% convinced though. The houses in the Riverbend area directly to the north, not 200 yards from the plant, are newer style houses that must surely have been built long after the plant. The houses in River Park South reach down to about 700m from the south plant, but I think that separation has more to do with the Perimeter Highway than the water treatment plant.

Anonymous said...

The rail bridge is also privately owned. The owner would like to do something with it eventually but the city is also interested in screwing the owner.

Riverman said...

Kildonan Park is my favourite park by far and making is larger is a great idea. More riverbank for the masses.

There have been several odor control projects carried out at the North End Treatment Plant and with every one the odor has been reduced. I'm around there all the time, there is very little if any odor.

RM said...

Some very good ideas here. I'm quite sure they'll fall on deaf ears.
When you say, "Blow up", are you thinking Bill Murray in Caddyshack vs. the Gopher?

cherenkov said...

I was thinking more of an SCTV "blowed up real good."

Xtoval said...

Count me as someone sentimental about Windsor Park, where I learned the game in the 1970s. But even then it was a joke. I think Tuxedo could go too. It would be incredibly valuable, with high-end apartments along Roblin across from Assiniboine Park, a new urbanism neighborhood backing on Grant and Shaftesbury. City could make a bundle. I will miss the driving range though.

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