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Buying 'Patch' is cheap ASU option

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The Augusta Municipal Golf Course isn't for sale, but purchasing it "is an option" among several presented to Augusta State University master planners detailing how the university will double enrollment in 20 years.

The 78-acre "Patch" property appeals to Augusta State University, which projects enrollment will increase by 7,000 over 20 years.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
The 78-acre "Patch" property appeals to Augusta State University, which projects enrollment will increase by 7,000 over 20 years.

The city-owned golf course has not recorded a profit, and in fact has posted an annual loss of more than $100,000 for several years.

Its distress recently attracted the attention of university officials, who are moving forward with plans to grow despite widely reported state cuts totaling 30 percent of ASU's operating budget.

The course, known to locals as "the Patch," is next to the university's only housing complex in an area south of existing ASU holdings soon to be known as its West Campus.

"It would be cheaper to purchase the Patch than to purchase the property around where we had originally planned to expand -- $2 million versus $30 million," Kathy Schofe, ASU's director of public relations, wrote in response to a reporter's questions.

The cost of acquiring 78 acres of privately held land next to ASU's West Campus needed to accommodate 7,000 more students -- the growth plan -- is even higher, at $35 million, said Kathy Hamrick, a former ASU math professor who is now a planner for the university.

No one on a subcommittee charged with recommending the fate of the Patch, nor any of its 150 members who have spoken out, want to sell the course, said Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett, the chairman of the subcommittee.

"We have lots of people that are on fixed income and love to play golf, and it's the government's responsibility to make sure certain things are provided to them," he said.

Lockett, whose district includes the Patch , said that though he'd be "ecstatic" if ASU decided to expand into the area, the course's losses are not unusual.

"You don't really expect those things to make a profit; if they can break even, it's great," he said.

An informal poll of six publicly owned and operated golf courses in the Southeast showed just one -- Charleston, S.C., Municipal Golf Course -- making a profit last year, according to Augusta Parks and Recreation Director Tom Beck.

Ultimately, the course's fate will be decided by the Augusta Commission, and Commissioner Don Grantham said he will make his vote count. Though the Patch is a public course, Grantham believes its losses show it doesn't cater to the public.

"We're not serving the general public; we're serving a few," he said. "Do you continue to deteriorate while you're serving a few? I think not."

Board of Regents-owned Forest Hills, meanwhile, has been solvent enough to make a $4 million contribution to the Augusta State golf program and facilities and make $1.6 million in improvements to the course, he said.

Grantham, an avid golfer and chairman of the board that operates Forest Hills, said he's stayed out of Patch discussions to avoid a conflict of interest.

Hypothesizing about ASU purchasing the Patch, Hamrick has said its members would be granted automatic membership at Forest Hills.

"It's a win-win for everybody when you look at the total picture," Grantham said.

ASU, which already has approval to build a new $28 million nursing and education building, must finalize a master plan for growth before planners select a site for the building, Hamrick said.

That plan must include at least three options for acquiring land for facilities, and ASU has cataloged everything available within a half-mile of its West Campus, she said.

The university's Walton Way campus, to be known as its East Campus, is at capacity with current enrollment of 7,000, and the school offers just one housing option: the 167-apartment complex on Damascus Road.

"That's our housing," and it's full, Hamrick said.

Nearby on Damascus Road is First Tee, a community golf center for youth; Augusta's Aquatic Center; about 35 acres owned by a private developer; and the Patch.

Hamrick said that until the subcommittee met ASU didn't have the Patch on its radar.

"They talked about how to save the Patch and the financial difficulties they were in," she said. "Only then did we start looking at the Patch as part of our master plan."

ASU is examining the Patch for an academic building. It's also considered putting the building on an existing athletic field and moving the field elsewhere, she said.

Building on Forest Hills Golf Course is not an option, she said.

"We'll do that when UGA puts a building right in the middle of Sanford Stadium," she said.

Enrollment has increased 3 percent to 4 percent annually in recent years, and planners don't expect it to slow. With a down economy, it will only grow more, Hamrick said.

"My job is to look 20 years down the road and say, 'These students are coming, how are we going to handle it?' " she said.

She hasn't had an environmental study performed at the Patch, but she did check with the Federal Aviation Administration because of the proximity of Daniel Field airport.

On Friday, the Patch was host to a church golf tournament, and no one who plays the course wants to see it go, Manager Ed Howerton said.

Some golfers on the Augusta Commission, such as subcommittee member Joe Bowles, don't want to abandon the Patch. Bowles would like to see a private management firm take over operations at the course.

"You know you can break even if you get a professional firm to come in with buying economies and professional expertise," he said.

The subcommittee will recommend a direction when the results of an audit come back in a few weeks, Lockett said.

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Brad Owens
4487
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Brad Owens 03/13/10 - 06:29 am
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Well, well, well, Good Ol'

Well, well, well, Good Ol' Don sits on the board at Forrest Hills? He sees this as a "win win" does he?

For whom?

This deal better be slowed down a bit and the public needs to know everything.

If we are to sell the 'Patch' which I disagree with, why don't we put it up for public auction?

Why is it so undervalued? I mean land nearby is worth ten times that?

Also, sounds like the Board of Regents owns Forrest Hills and wants to shut down the Patch? Are the membership rates the same?

Lots of questions.

I say, go with Commissioner Joe Bowles' idea FIRST. If ASU is not moving now but just "planning for 20 years" I am sure this can wait for a few years to see if a private firm can turn things around.

If not, I smell a big fat rat.

Brad

tmyboy6988
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tmyboy6988 03/13/10 - 06:32 am
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In the article it says that

In the article it says that "ASU, which already has approval to build a new $28 million nursing and education building". So if they build it who's going to use it, since they are talking about cutting the nursing program. Seems like they need to worry about current problems before starting new ones. Why do school seem to be more concerned about what is going to happen in 20 years than trying to fix the problems that are happening now.

jmilfd
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jmilfd 03/13/10 - 06:50 am
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Building on Forest Hills is

Building on Forest Hills is not the same as building in Sanford Stadium.

Why give County Politicians $2 Million Dollars to blow. They would just waste it. Sounds like a lot of folks are chomping at the bit to make money on the transactions. Who would they be ? Forest Hills only claim to fame is that Bobby Jones won a Tournament there.

Isn't the Augusta Golf Association run by members of The Augusta Country
Club and is the governing body of Forest Hills.

There are more than 150 people who play the Patch.

Forest Hills would be a great place to expand. Wouldn't have to buy it.

That would eliminate conflicts of interest. Why aim low. No one says
that a bunch of college students need a golf course.

The reason that Augusta is not a golf destination; is that most course
are private and visitors don't have much choice in the Golf Capitol
of Richmond County.

County Commisioners couldn't even build a Quality Civic Center.

$2 million would just be Funny money for the politicians and their friends.

Houses in a lot of cities cost more than that.

Check your pockets because they are about to be picked. Doo Dah.

pointstoponder
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pointstoponder 03/13/10 - 07:02 am
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""We have lots of people that

""We have lots of people that are on fixed income and love to play golf, and it's the government's responsibility to make sure certain things are provided to them," he said"

Since when did golf become an entitlement?

deekster
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deekster 03/13/10 - 07:19 am
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Everything is an

Everything is an "entitlement" in the Obamanation Society. I think I hear another "concrete truck" heading up Wrightsboro Rd. ASU has a golf course next to its "housing project" on Wrightsboro Rd. What is wrong with that course? The Oliver General US Army course. Sell Daniel Field. Why do we need two airports? For the Masters visitors? Wasted money and wasted lives. Just another day in Dysfunction Junction. All Abooard!!! for the Deke Coperhaver-Boardman Stadium and Convocation Center in Downtown Augusta. The "golfing capital of the world". Home of the beautiful "International Golf and Gardens Hall of Fame".

jmilfd
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jmilfd 03/13/10 - 07:30 am
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I would suggest the other

I would suggest the other golf courses subsidize and promote minority
golf @ the Patch. Create minority golf college scholarships.

I had the priviledge of playing a hole with Jim Dent when I was young.
He drove the par 4 5th hole.

Let's take pride and become the minority Golf Capital Of the world.

Grand Vision. Maybe some Pro Golfers would like to support Minority Golf.

Minority means those that can't afford or have parents to support
their playing golf.

I personally started caddying @ the Patch to be able to play. Changed my life. Doo Dah

jmilfd
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jmilfd 03/13/10 - 07:43 am
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Another idea. Need some

Another idea. Need some clarity. Do semi-private or private courses pay a per round fee to Richmond County. Might be able to get $100.000
a year quicker; provide better sprinkler systems, grass, fertilizer, and equipment for The Patch.

University of Georgia could support agronomy minority scholarships
and place interns @ the Patch. What a wonderful project that would be for the Patch.

Do we really need a government course for 7,000 college students @ Forest Hills. I bet very few students @ ASU can afford the green fees
at the school course.

Sounds like a toy for the privilege. Doo Dah

Brad Owens
4487
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Brad Owens 03/13/10 - 08:01 am
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Anytime Don Grantham says

Anytime Don Grantham says it's a "win win" we need to get out the microscope on the deal.

Brad

SouthernPride
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SouthernPride 03/13/10 - 08:05 am
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jmilfd, ASU student fees at

jmilfd, ASU student fees at Forest Hills is $5 per round. For MCG students its $10 per round. When I was a student we played that course all the time because of the low cost.

Tear down the Patch and expand ASU. Democrats are stupid and do not have the publics best intentions at heart. More students in our area means more money being spent in our local economy. The patch is losing $100,000 a year. Oh yeah, let's keep that thing open. Typical Democrat thinking. Shoot 'em all.

Junket831
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Junket831 03/13/10 - 08:15 am
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Public courses shouldn't

Public courses shouldn't necessarily mean tax payer financed. Just like everything else, the Patch needs to be taxpayer neutral. Fees from golfers should cover the costs. Golf is not a cheap sport and those that play it need to plan accordingly. The role of government is to be mindful of quality of life. Certainly recreational outlets such as golf courses, skate parks, aquatics centers, tennis parks, bike trails, frisbee golf, fishing areas, etc. are an important component of what makes a community thrive. However, these activities need to be self supporting as much as possible because in tight economic times these non-essential services are going to be cut to the bone.

I like the idea of ASU expanding. But there may be other solutions that might be considered. Daniel Field is one option. If it costs the taxpayers money to maintain it then either raise the fees to be self-supporting or start selling the land. Consider an agreement with the VA on Wrightsboro. They have several acres of unused land and would be an ideal site for a nursing/medical education center.

Long term, ASU and ARC need to consider an education zone. The ideal spot is along Wrightsboro Road since ASU already has a significant investment in this area. It is probably too late, but it would have been wonderful for ASU to expand downtown. Their growth would have led to a faster revitalization of the downtown area or even the Harrisburg area.

jmilfd
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jmilfd 03/13/10 - 08:43 am
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SouthPride sounds like you

SouthPride sounds like you like subsidizes fees. Who said that I am a
Democrat.
Can the government continue to subsidize 7000 students?

Who appraised The Patch ?

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 03/13/10 - 08:44 am
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Its blatantly obvious that

Its blatantly obvious that Bill Lockett (I'm going to start calling him Bi-Lo) has lost his way. Since when does the government carry the burden of making sure golf can be played by all? Now their socializing golf? Well, I think my comissioner, Joe Jeckson, needs to make sure I have a properly trackable Porsche that I can race at Road Atlanta.. After all, my income is less than fixed.

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 03/13/10 - 08:44 am
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Daniel Field is the most

Daniel Field is the most valuable real estate asset the county owns. With The Patch next door, you are talking mega potential. It is Augusta's own ANWAR oil field. However, it may as well be an old Indian burial ground because it is sacred to the wealthiest citizens here. That is an entitlement. A city airport in this age of security is hardly necessary. But.....even I enjoy knowing it is still there.

jmilfd
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jmilfd 03/13/10 - 08:47 am
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Let's take an audit of

Let's take an audit of taxpayer neutral activities; Tennis, boat marinas,
etc.

disssman
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disssman 03/13/10 - 09:19 am
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Why is it the article just a

Why is it the article just a few days ago said the course was losing $159,000 a year (now over $100,000) and also it had 150 members? That equated out to better than $1,000 per year subsidy for each member. Do we really want to do anything about welfare bloom or is it just different when its something to do with golf? What else besides this course and the private parking at Daniels field do we sibsidize to the tune of hundreds of thoudands of dollars? BTW to find out why we are not a golf destination, just visit the Masters.

jmilfd
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jmilfd 03/13/10 - 09:49 am
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One week a year doesn't make

One week a year doesn't make a golf resort. At best the azaleas are only in bloom 2 weeks.

If you must sell the Patch, sell it for $38 Million, why should the citizens
of the area need to sell short to the state.

ASU already says what it is worth to the school. Let's change the debate.

Riverman1
84272
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Riverman1 03/13/10 - 10:26 am
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Sometimes we overlook our

Sometimes we overlook our most valuable assets and ways to make the community more beautiful and grow at the same time. ASU is our treasure that can turn Augusta around with 15,000 students. I would seriously consider selling the land to ASU. After all, the course is a money loser now. I believe most of us agree something has to be done.

So what do we do with it? It’s not in a super growth area. Have you seen all the empty stores on Wrightsboro Rd. recently? It can’t be sold for housing projects or anything else that residents would want to see built there. A college campus is beautiful, stabilizing and a seed for more growth. Don’t forget we gave MCG $7 million in land for expansion and spent much more relocating the public housing residents.

Since most of us are in agreement that the status quo losing $150 thousand a year is not wise, let’s look at our options:

1. Let a private company run it for the city
2. Sell to a private concern who will keep it as a golf course
3. Sell to someone for whatever we can get, no matter what the use
4. Sell to ASU

The first two don’t really change the problem of the county using all that land for the benefit of a very few. The third may give us something in that area that the residents don’t want and something that won’t help with growth.

On the other hand an ASU campus could change the face of that area in a beneficial way and bring tens of millions to the local economy. I don’t believe we realize the benefits of a growing, large college campus. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I hope we don’t get hung up in local, shallow politics.

reader54
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reader54 03/13/10 - 10:25 am
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Brad: Well said. Let's slow

Brad: Well said. Let's slow down and see what the market price is for the land. You don't have to be Donald Trump to figure that if surrounding land is so valuable then this parcel is as well. Maybe more so, since it borders the airstrip. If we grow, so will the air field.

Riverman1
84272
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Riverman1 03/13/10 - 10:45 am
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This whole debate is so

This whole debate is so straight forward to me. We’ve committed a hundred million dollars with the TEE and Laney Walker grants in hopes of them acting as seeds for the downtown area. You know the argument, “The TEE will bring in conventions and lots of money.” Here we can act at the cost of a few million and positively create an area changing college campus that will bring in many businesses. I objected vehemently to the TEE, but I can find no fault in selling the land (or even giving it) to ASU. The university helps educate our population.

Before we get entrenched in our opinions let’s all think a bit.
This would not be a POSSIBLE beneficial move like the TEE, this would be a guaranteed benefit to the CSRA as a whole, ASU and to the residents who live near the golf course.

dominionfs
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dominionfs 03/13/10 - 10:52 am
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Makes sense to me, sell the

Makes sense to me, sell the land to ASU. However I would also suggest consolidating Paine College with ASU and opening the Paine land for development.

Brad Owens
4487
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Brad Owens 03/13/10 - 10:54 am
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Riverman1, I will have to

Riverman1,

I will have to disagree that losing $159,000.00 merits closing it down.

The DDA costs us over $200,000.00 a year and no one enjoys its use so why not cut those idiots before the Patch?

The point is, why is ASU planning on spending tens of millions of dollars on expansion in a time of $500,000,000.00 being cut form the system?

It doesn't add up.

What is wrong with having a municipal golf course? I mean quality of life is something the city should look at too.

I mean by that way of thinking, why not give the them Civic Center? It loses a million a year if not more. How much does Diamond Lakes cost us a year?

I mean if the goal is saving us money then there are better places to do it than selling the Patch.

Why doesn't ASU buy the Golf and Gardens? It has about 2.5million owed on it and it would make GREAT apartments for students. Why isn't THAT on the so-called 'radar?' Or what about the Old Cotton Depot AKA 'The Pension Property?'

I am for giving Commissoner Bowles' idea a try. Let's give a private firm the opportunity to turn it around before we declare it a 'must get rid of' liability. Why rush into this? Why not slow down and make sure that this is a god idea before we do it?

Just think it through,

Brad

SouthernPride
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SouthernPride 03/13/10 - 10:58 am
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You said very few students

You said very few students could actually afford the fees at Forest Hills. I was just telling you what they are for a student. Nobody said you were a democrat. I simply said shoot 'em dead. Get it right son.

Riverman1
84272
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Riverman1 03/13/10 - 11:12 am
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Brad, I’m going to address

Brad, I’m going to address each of your points. The $159, 000 a year by itself is not the major loss here. It’s the beneficial use of that large parcel of land that ASU could give us. As far as ASU planning on spending money when cuts are currently being made, this is a plan for the future. The necessity of future planning is important.

Next, you say quality of life is an issue with keeping the Patch. For the few people who play that substandard course maybe so, but an ASU campus can be used by many more, including those who live around the campus, while helping the entire area by offering educational opportunities for all of us.

The question of why not give them the JB Arena is not apt because it sits on a very few acres yet serves the entire county, bringing in thousands of visitors to the city. With the Patch we are talking about 75 acres for a hundred people who go home after playing.

You ask why not the Golf and Gardens, Cotton Depot, etc. Those are not nearly the 75 acres we are talking about that would allow ASU to grow for decades.

Now, your last point I agree with. There’s no hurry. ASU doesn’t even want the land right now. Let’s simply keep this option open for when they are ready.

Riverman1
84272
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Riverman1 03/13/10 - 11:15 am
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Let me sum up my view with

Let me sum up my view with one question. If cost is not a factor and we are going to give up the Patch and do away with the golf course, what could possibly be better for the county and residents in that area than an ASU expansion?

corgimom
32631
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corgimom 03/13/10 - 11:18 am
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"We have lots of people that

"We have lots of people that are on fixed income and love to play golf, and it's the government's responsibility to make sure certain things are provided to them," he said.

This is why Augusta is in the mess that they are in- commissioners that value a golf course more than a university.

I knew all sorts of Augusta businessmen that played the Patch- and they weren't on a fixed income. Do you realize that it would be cheaper to start a program that would subsidize fees for low-income golfers at another course, than to keep the Patch going?

The "fixed-income" line is just bs.

Brad, the land has already been assessed at $2,000,000. And ASU is landlocked and wants to expand.

Buying the Patch is a fabulous idea.

Riverman1
84272
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Riverman1 03/13/10 - 11:27 am
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Corgimom, exactly. Plus, the

Corgimom, exactly. Plus, the current members of the Patch will be given memberships at Forrest Lawn.

We have to realize what an expanded university will bring besides the educational benefits. Money into the economy, jobs and spin off businesses in the area.

ASU didn't bring this up, the Commission did. They realize something has to be done. This is a monumental decision if we think about what ASU will bring to the table.

Ayetidiosi
2
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Ayetidiosi 03/13/10 - 11:45 am
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Ask any smoker: the Patch

Ask any smoker: the Patch just isn't worth the money.

Brad Owens
4487
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Brad Owens 03/13/10 - 12:10 pm
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RM1, if land is the issue

RM1, if land is the issue then why don't they use Forrest Hills? The point I am making is that not only the members use it.

The idea that only the 100 members use it is absurd. Hell, even I have played it a few times and I don't play golf.

I am not opposed to ASU buying it period, I just want us to slow down on things like this that are NOT a super pressing need.

Also, why does all the dorms have to be in one spot. I would support having the Golf and Gardens and the the Cotton Depot properties turned over to ASU for housing. What about all the property the BOE owns?

I mean any jackass can burn down a barn,

Brad

Riverman1
84272
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Riverman1 03/13/10 - 12:22 pm
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Brad, Forrest Hills makes

Brad, Forrest Hills makes millions for the university, plus gives the county a beautiful place to play. In addition, ASU is one of the top ranked collegiate golf programs in the county. Ranked ahead of UGA and so on. They need the course and the public is benefited by them running a superb course without taking our tax money.

Honestly, the only value I see of the Patch is in conjunction with ASU expanding. There is nothing else that would work there. 78 acres next to the Wrightsboro Rd. campus is simply too good to pass up. But we both agree, it’s going to be a while before it happens in any case.

Now your last point is one I’ve supported for a long time. Expanding ASU throughout Augusta as the College of Charleston did in Charleston. That can also happen, but it takes a lot of land in the downtown area to equal 78 acres.

Jake
32630
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Jake 03/13/10 - 12:49 pm
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I like the idea of offering a

I like the idea of offering a private company the chance to buy the Patch, fix it up and allow it to remain open as a golf course with increased green fees. It is a really nice patch of green in an area full of housing and developement. It is also a very nice course to walk without much difficulty. At least keep it open until I can play it again in early April when I am visiting.

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