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City of Sarasota hosts community meetings to discuss future of Bobby Jones Golf Club

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - It's a part of Sarasota's history, but all of those years are starting to take their toll.

Bobby Jones Golf Club opened back in 1927 and to try to save its future, Sarasota plans to renovate the city-owned course with grants and money in the budget. 

But first, city staff is asking for the community's input.

The first meeting Wednesday was at Payne Park to give the public an opportunity to voice their opinion on if taxpayer dollars should go towards fixing this 45 hole course.

"I love this place," said Mike Crisante. "This used to be a very nice municipal golf course."

But now, it's getting harder and harder for him to play at the Bobby Jones Golf Course.

"Conditions have deteriorated quite a bit," Crisante explained. "Back then, you couldn't get on here, it was so crowded. The place was making good money. They're not now. They're losing money left and right."

There's been a nearly 20 percent decrease in the number of rounds played at the course in just a few years and it's evident why.

"In wet season, which we are in right now, we flood," explained Bobby Jones' Manager, Sue Martin. "We can lose two or three days of golf because the drainage is so poor and over the years that has happened."

In addition to flooding, the course's irrigation system dates back to the 70's and it breaks on a daily basis, costing more to fix than the course is making.

"Up until this year, this is the first year we've had to dip into the general fund and get a subsidy from the taxpayers dollars," Martin explained.

$425,000 taxpayer dollars, and now the city commission has decided to pay the additional money needed to renovate the course.

That face lift is now estimated to cost around $16 million dollars, but the commission said it will look for at least $3 million of that in grants.

"It's a park, it's green space and it's also profitable, so we need to get it back to that place where people can actually play there," said Jen Ahearn-Koch, Vice Mayor of the City of Sarasota.

The commissioner who wasn't on board was Hagan Brody, who said this course has been a waste of money. 

At the public meeting Wednesday, local Dale Menard seemed to agree, saying to the crowd of those in favor of the renovations that the city has other, more important priorities.

But the golf course staff said if something isn't done, this will be the end.

"It will basically close itself down and I would say that that's going to be in the next 3-4 years," Martin added.

The commissioners have asked the Bobby Jones staff to return to them in 60 days with the feedback from the community meetings.

There will be an additional two meetings on Thursday held at City Hall at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

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