BY KATHRYN KELLY
On a recent beautiful Sunday afternoon I took a drive around the Nokomis-Hiawatha neighborhood. Nokomis Park has numerous softball fields along Cedar Avenue, but they were empty and unused. The plentiful tennis courts in the neighborhood were also unused except for one of five courts on 43rd Street. Of course, part of the reason is that most tennis courts in the neighborhood are in a state of total disrepair and are unsafe to use. The only two sets of courts nice enough to use have been the 43rd Street courts and the courts next to the Nokomis Community building. But the courts by the Nokomis Community building have now been demolished and have been replaced with pickleball courts.
I then went by Hiawatha Golf Course. The parking lot was packed with cars, overflowing into the street, and the golf course was filled with people. This highly used facility is now slated for destruction. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has put out the schedule for demolition. They state that it will take three to four more years of planning. They hope to break ground in 2027. I guess the almost $1 million that has already been spent and eight years of planning have not been enough. Of course, Assistant Superintendent of Planning Michael Schroeder has said that the published Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan, the pet project of Commissioner Steffanie Musich, is just a concept.
Musich and Schroeder now need to figure out how they can build the proposed nine-hole golf course in a flood plain without pumping out water to keep it dry. Or, alternatively, how they can put tons of fill into a critical flood plain in an urban area to raise the nine-hole golf course above the level of the lake to keep it from flooding. They also need to get the city of Minneapolis to put pumps in the low-lying neighborhoods to keep an estimated 500 homes dry. It sounds like they have their work cut out for them. If you look at the master plan, the additional “planning” cost is estimated to be $8.7 to $13.1 million (in 2020 dollars). Figuring inflation (2023 dollars), the high-end planning cost could be as much as $17 million. At the end of this planning phase, will they find out that the cost of the whole project has more than doubled, like their water park project in North Minneapolis? If so, the whole project could blow up from $63 million to over $120 million. It appears that Musich has created a lot of job security for Schroeder and his staff. Unfortunately, this massive spending of millions of dollars does nothing to fix the unusable tennis courts.