The City of Winnipeg is seeking proposals to "repurpose" some of its publicly owned golf courses, which could explore converting them into anything from housing to community gardens.
A request for proposals suggests the alternatives could include public green space, active transportation, reforestation, community gardens, residential development (with affordable housing) and recreation.
Coun. Jeff Browaty, chairperson of council’s innovation committee, said the contract doesn’t mean the city will wind up selling multiple courses.
"Nobody here is trying to dictate that we’re going to be closing golf courses left and right. This is just an opportunity now to go look and start the discussion (on how they should be used)," said Browaty.
The document notes the land, or sections of land, at the Assiniboine, Canoe Club, Crescent Drive, Harbour View, Kildonan Park, St. Boniface, Transcona, Tuxedo, Wildewood and Windsor Park golf courses could be considered for new purposes.
The result could range from altering only excess land to redesigning or closing an entire course to allow new uses, it notes.
During the 2020 budget process, the city announced it would seek a plan to repurpose up to 30 per cent of all city-owned golf course land.
Browaty said the latest contract could better match green spaces with how Winnipeggers want to use them.
"People’s recreational activities have changed over time. Maybe we need more ultimate frisbee fields. Maybe we need more off-leash dog parks, soccer pitches, baseball diamonds and cricket (fields)… It’s sort of an opportunity in some ways to make sure that the taxpayer-subsidized recreational amenities match the demand in the community," he said.
The municipal government is separately seeking bidders to either buy John Blumberg golf course or enter a joint venture with the city for that site.
Coun. Scott Gillingham, council’s finance chairperson, said that while some land could be sold for housing development, the city’s key goal isn’t to secure a profit.
Instead, Gillingham also stressed the priority is to ensure city amenities serve as many Winnipeggers as possible.
"I believe there’s a need to reimagine how the city can best utilize our golf courses to meet the needs of more than just golfers," he said.
The councillor noted that some have questioned whether the city needs to own golf courses at all, since that forces the government to compete with the private sector.
City golf courses had a major surge in business during the summer, when the number of rounds played at Crescent Drive jumped by 44 per cent than last year.
But Gillingham warned it’s not clear if that trend will continue once pandemic restrictions that limit or cancel other recreation options are removed.
Bids for the golf course contract are due on March 11, 2021. The city expects to pay up to $150,000 for that work.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.