September 18, 2019

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Meadows public golf course put out to pasture

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The former Meadows golf course is being developed into residential and commercial property.</p>

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The former Meadows golf course is being developed into residential and commercial property.

Forget about gazing at green meadows and prepare to see homes and maybe a strip mall or two in the coming years when you drive by a chunk of property just outside the northeast edge of the city.

Indeed, that was part of the problem.

People drove by instead of stopping in and taking their drivers out at Meadows at East St. Paul Golf Course, which is closed for business due to fewer golfers and too many choices of courses in Winnipeg and the surrounding area.

Peter Ewert, president of Meadows and also the director of golf at Larters at St. Andrews, said the dwindling numbers of golfers each season since the 18-hole public course opened 15 years ago made it impossible to continue to operate the business.

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Forget about gazing at green meadows and prepare to see homes and maybe a strip mall or two in the coming years when you drive by a chunk of property just outside the northeast edge of the city.

Indeed, that was part of the problem.

People drove by instead of stopping in and taking their drivers out at Meadows at East St. Paul Golf Course, which is closed for business due to fewer golfers and too many choices of courses in Winnipeg and the surrounding area.

Peter Ewert, president of Meadows and also the director of golf at Larters at St. Andrews, said the dwindling numbers of golfers each season since the 18-hole public course opened 15 years ago made it impossible to continue to operate the business.

"You’re running into a situation where the golf courses that are available to the public, there’s just too many," Ewert said. "There’s really a need for almost two or three more to go down until you start getting people actually now getting back up to the number of rounds that they used to have.

"The number of rounds being played at most of these courses are 10-15 per cent down from where they used to be, and that’s from a business perspective, that’s where budgets need to be. It’s really a numbers game."

Privately owned Meadows hosted its final players in late October, although the sale of the 185-acre parcel of land near the junction of the north Perimeter Highway and Lagimodière Boulevard hasn’t quite been finalized.

A developer is planning a residential neighbourhood, with some of the site earmarked for commercial purposes.

"The decision was made a couple of years back, when things were starting to look grimmer as far as the golf industry is concerned and the number of rounds we were beginning to have," Ewert said. "There just wasn’t the appetite for shareholders to continue down that road if it wasn’t going to really improve.

"And I think that’s sort of the state of the industry in Winnipeg. There’s a lot of golf courses and there’s not necessarily enough people to go around. That became the gist of what we had to decided to do. A developer was interested in property in East St. Paul, and the two ideas came together."

Located on McGregor Farm Road, the course had multiple tee boxes, lengthening it to 6,900 yards from 5,400 yards, to accommodate players of all skill levels. Several holes could be seen from the highway and others were tucked away on the most easterly side of the property, closer to Wenzel Road.

The ownership group had high hopes for the track when the plan was first forged, Ewert said.

"When we opened, everything was working. We were on a path toward the number of rounds making it financially successful as far as the golf course was concerned. That number is around that 30,000 rounds of golf," he said. "We sort of stayed around 24,000 to 28,000, so it’s doable. It’s not great and the shareholders aren’t super happy, but it’s doable.

"Then it goes lower to 22,000, then to 20,000, and all of a sudden you’re bailing water out of a sinking ship."

Less than two years ago, the City of Winnipeg did a study on its own golf courses and noted a big drop-off in rounds played at the city-operated Kildonan Park, Windsor Park, Crescent Drive and Harbour View courses.

There are simply too many golf courses — approximately 50 courses within a 70-kilometre radius — in the Winnipeg area, the report said.

Ewert said it’s a similar story in the golf industry over the past decade "all over the place."

"Numerous courses in the United States have gone under. They just couldn’t survive. And this is happening in Canada, too. There are a lot of golf courses that were sold or will be for sale or are close to going under. There just isn’t any money there," he said. "They’re better off trying to sell it to someone who wants to develop it, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Developing is still lucrative in Winnipeg and Manitoba... that becomes the better business."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

Read full biography

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