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Plans for mini golf course in works for Cedar Rapids' Twin Pines

City Council advances $560,000 proposal for Twin Pines mini golf

CEDAR RAPIDS — Seeing a family-friendly way of partially offsetting some revenue shortfalls from the city’s municipal golf operation, the Cedar Rapids City Council advanced plans Tuesday to build an estimated $560,000 mini golf course at Twin Pines.

“It just reminds me of all of my birthday parties at Chapman Fun World, which ... we’ve been missing since it closed” in 2001 after 48 years in operation, said City Council member Ashley Vanorny.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hock said the 18-hole mini golf course at Twin Pines, 3800 42nd St. NE, would be a fully accessible facility compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and feature social media-friendly spots designed to prompt people to post on Instagram or Facebook and help market the course.

The city operates four golf courses. But flooding and the dwindling popularity of golf have caused revenue losses, which have lost a net total of $1.54 million in six years.

Play fell to 81,910 rounds in fiscal 2019, the budget year that ended June 30, from fiscal 2018 as part of a three-year downward trend.

The promise of improved marketing and other initiatives aimed to drive revenue kept the city from closing Jones Golf Course in 2017, and city finance committee members in February looked to the proposed mini golf course as another possible solution.

Hock said the course would sit between the Twin Pines clubhouse and the maintenance shop, above the parking lot situated in the middle of those structures.

There would be a spot available for to rent out for smaller celebrations such as birthday parties.

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The course would loop to a pond area that Hock said will include a waterfall before routing golfers back to the clubhouse after a playing the 18-hole course with varying experiences at each hole.

“We want to have different experiences,” Hock said. “Some are a little more difficult. Some are designed to have a higher success rate.”

The course would be operational during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hock said, and equipment would be cleaned between usage.

“Golf is one of those things that you can social distance and do,” he said. “ ... Golf courses have been very active in regards to their usage during this time, and we feel that would be the case with the mini golf as well.”

The city is in talks with local schools to help build parts of the course, Hock said, but those efforts are stalled as schools work through operational plans to bring students and teachers back safely this fall during the pandemic.

Vanorny said golf has generally lost money in some capacity for the city, and asked if this course would minimize revenue losses overall.

Hock said it would help once the initial investment of construction is paid off in about three years, as the city estimates yearly revenue to total $193,050 at 25 percent capacity, or about 125 rounds per day.

Under the proposed fee schedule, a round would cost $6 for students, $8 for adults, $7 for those ages 65 or older and $5 for toddlers. After paying about $24,000 in staff costs, Hock said the city expects the course to clear nearly $170,000 annually.

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“Based on the numbers we have been seeing out of golf, it will not fully take away all of the subsidy of golf,” he said. “However, it won’t allow us to be ahead on golf but it will help us catch up a lot more with that.”

Council member Ann Poe said she liked the idea of having something in Cedar Rapids, like the city’s tree of life representing the “five seasons,” that is “some kind of ‘wow’ factor that gets people to stop.”

The city has lacked a mini golf course since Chapman’s closure, council member Patrick Loeffler said, approving of the location focused on kid-centered fun for the families in the area.

“We need ‘holy moly’ and we’re going to bring in that excitement and everything, but I’m just happy to see something come in that’s family-oriented,” Loeffler said.

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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