Golf gardens set to close at June's end

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A plan is under way to close the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame's Botanical Gardens at the end of the month.

But given the dismal activity levels at the struggling Reynolds Street facility, the move might have gone unnoticed had word not leaked of the announcement planned for today.

Robyn Jarrett, the Golf Hall of Fame's marketing director, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the board of directors intends to close the gardens, tentatively on June 30. Board Chairman Bryan Persons, of Macon, made the announcement to staffers Tuesday, she said.

Six full-time employees and four part-time employees will be laid off at the end of July. A few booked weddings still have to be accommodated, Ms. Jarrett said.

The facility was dealt a blow last week when Gov. Sonny Perdue made an 11th-hour decision to veto funds for Augusta projects before signing the state's $20.2 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. He cut $633,685 from the Golf Hall of Fame.

Ms. Jarrett said the board will still look for funding, and in the meantime two members will likely handle administration of the Golf Hall of Fame. However, the board is also weighing its options for the property. Adjacent land is being considered by some city leaders as a site for a downtown baseball stadium.

"Since we've only had three business days really to wrap our arms around the veto. There are still a lot of unanswered questions," Ms. Jarrett said Tuesday.

State Sen. Ed Tarver said Augusta's legislators aren't giving up. The delegation is looking for a local source of money to keep the gardens open until state money can be reallocated. He said $500,000 would keep the facility operating for another year.

Asked Tuesday why it should be saved, Mr. Tarver said that before the gardens opened in 2001, the state bought up private property under the threat of condemnation. It would be wrong, he said, for that land to be sold back to a private developer. The gardens are part of 17 acres of state property along Reynolds Street.

"Since taking that property, it has never been properly funded by the state," Mr. Tarver said. "The state of Georgia, in my mind, never honored its commitment to the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame."

The gardens drew 160,000 visitors last year, Ms. Jarrett said, well below the 300,000 originally projected for the facility when it was envisioned with an interactive museum to go with the gardens and putting course. It was conceived as a $30 million project, but a building to house the Golf Hall of Fame was never constructed.

Money for the golf hall and gardens was once included in a $30 million economic development package promised for Augusta, a package credited to now-imprisoned former Sen. Charles Walker. But when Democrats' power waned at the state Capitol, $10 million of the package was withheld.

A state audit this year helped document how the golf hall has spent more than $13 million in public funds since its inception in the early 1990s but has little more than gardens, statues, and putting greens to show for it. The audit also found about $1,300 in improper expenditures, including employee massages and wine.

Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said the governor thought the amount the General Assembly included in the budget for the golf hall was excessive - a nearly 1,000 percent increase over last year. Mr. Perdue has supported the hall in past years, but he wasn't willing to accept such a large increase. The hall and botanical gardens received about $58,000 in the prior year's budget.

Under state law, governors can either accept individual items in the budget or veto the whole line containing that item.

"Because all those funds are wrapped up into the same line item, the governor only had the choice of to line item the whole thing or accepting the whole thing. As he said in his veto message, that seemed like an excessive amount," Mr. Brantley said.

Staff Writer Justin Boron contributed to this article.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

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HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 06/06/07 - 04:37 am
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Would Ed Tarver please give

Would Ed Tarver please give this up? Nobody in Augusta, except him cares if the Golf and Gardens closes. Has he ever been down to the place.? No one goes there, except for the occassional wedding. It is unacceptable for more tax money to be wasted on this moneypit. If Ed Tarver wants to do something to help downtown Augusta, maybe he should look at getting appropriations for cleaning up Riverwalk, adding more streetlights to Broad streets, and facade grants to fix boarded up buildings downtown.

laurak
4
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laurak 06/06/07 - 07:57 am
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It sounds as if some envision

It sounds as if some envision the G and G as a welfare child of the state. It started out with arm twisting by Charles Walker before his conviction and a lot of threats to former land owners down there. Strong arm tactics were used to get the small businesses there to shut down or move out. It is a shame it was created in the first place, but like Iraq, beating a dead horse makes no sense.

dirt police
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dirt police 06/06/07 - 08:09 am
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When people ask where i live

When people ask where i live I say Augusta,oh where the MASTERS is held.What a fitting place for the Golf Hall Of Fame.The Governor slapped Ben Harbin in the Face because he was arrested for DUI. Ben Harbin was behind the funding for the Hall of Fame. As usual politics play ground in Augusta. All the other State Halls of Fames in Ga. get well over 1/2 million from the Governor.Its ashame those of you who judge and have never been to the Gardens.Its a beautiful place.I guess more overpriced condos will be built there.

Little Lamb
44971
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Little Lamb 06/06/07 - 08:27 am
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Thank you, HillGuy. It is

Thank you, HillGuy. It is time to pull the plug on the Golf Gardens before anymore taxpayer money is sent down that hole. Ed Tarver is self-serving in his rationalization that the land cannot be sold. Just because the land was taken using eminent domain does not mean that it can never be sold again. I say, sell it to the private sector. It is at a location that should fetch top dollar, at the gateway between Augusta and North Augusta.

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 06/06/07 - 08:45 am
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Hey DirtPolice.. The Augusta

Hey DirtPolice.. The Augusta National Golf Club did not want to particpate in a museum honoring The Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta. So what taxpayers got was a glorified putt-putt course. If The Augusta National wants to build a museum, then fine.. let them pay to build it, not the taxpayers of Georgia. But from everything I have read on this subject, the National thought it was a stupid idea too.

ivymist
0
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ivymist 06/06/07 - 08:49 am
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I think this is disgraceful,

I think this is disgraceful, I have had a solution for the Golf Gardens from the start. Namely, stop asking a ridiculous admission fee (why would anyone pay to go see plants when other state gardens are larger and free) and ask for private donations as well as corporate and state funding. If I could have used the gardens without having to shell out as much as a movie ticket cost when they opened, I might have gone more often. I did get to spend some extended time in there for free and I LOVED it. It was definitely a respite from the rest of the city. But if I had to pay, I could get the same respite from a quick trip to Athens, with a HUGE free garden, a better downtown, and fewer panhandlers. Its worth the Saturday trip sometimes. This whole thing was just handled awkwardly and obviously by Augusta.

HillGuy
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HillGuy 06/06/07 - 08:49 am
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The other Halls of Fame in

The other Halls of Fame in Georgia actually budgeted their money wisely and actually constructed buildings. The Golf Hall of Fame had 10 years and over $20 million and still never constructed a building. What do they have to show for all that money? A glorified putt-putt course. By the way, the real Golf Hall of Fame is in St. Augustine, FL. The whole idea behind this was just asenine. Throwing more money at the Golf Hall of Fame Gardens would be just like flushing it down a toilet.

Chief Inspector
0
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Chief Inspector 06/06/07 - 08:55 am
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Hey Hill Guy, get your head

Hey Hill Guy, get your head out of your ***. The Golf and Gradens has nothing to do with the Augusta National Golf Club. The Georgia Golf Hall of Fame has been in existance since 1982 which has annual golfers from Georgia inducted each year. The Golf and Gardens was created to compliment the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame. The Georgia Golf Hall of Fame will remain, and it is a shame that the city that hosts one of the 4 major golf events will lose the Golf and Gardens. The Golf and Gardens houses all of the bronze statues of famous golfers who have played a major part of putting Augusta on the national map. People who visit Augusta each April enjoy taking the tour of the Golf and Gardens. Maybe private funding will step up and help keep the Golf and Gardens from closing.

dirt police
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dirt police 06/06/07 - 08:56 am
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Hill Guy YOU dont have clue

Hill Guy YOU dont have clue as to what it takes to maintain a Botanical Gardens. The GOLF Hall of Fame is GEORGIAS Hall of Fame not FLA.Only people of Georgia are inducted into the Hall of Fame.

bone
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bone 06/06/07 - 09:03 am
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who cares? 6 FULL TIME

who cares? 6 FULL TIME EMPLOYEES AND 4 PART TIMERS were being paid for...what? and RCBOE is considering cutting teachers? come on, folks, this GGHF was a money pit.

My Opinion
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My Opinion 06/06/07 - 09:03 am
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HillGuy you are wrong when

HillGuy you are wrong when you say:
"Nobody in Augusta, except him cares if the Golf and Gardens closes." It IS a beautiful tranquill place on the inside. It has been mismanaged in the past and now the current staff is having to pay for the sins of their fathers. Ask the innocent employess with families to support if they care. Maybe you could put them all on your payroll since you have all the answers.
Also, in case you are wondering I do not work at the Hall of Fame.

HillGuy
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HillGuy 06/06/07 - 09:10 am
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Who went to the place? It was

Who went to the place? It was nearly always empty! Private contributors should be the ones funding this. Where were they? The fact is they had over $20 million and never constructed a building. Wouldn't it have made sense to have actually constructed a Hall of Fame building first with that money? Instead they spent all of their money on a gaerden that costs a bloody fortune to maintain. They charge admission which no one wants to pay, because you have the nearby Riverwalk park that you can enjoy for free with views of the river. Get real! What person is going to back a trip to Augusta to see this place? A museum honoring The Masters tournament would have made some iota of good sense, if The National had sponsored it. THis was nothing more than a complete waste of tax money. The private constributors never came forward to help finance the project. That should show there was little interest in it outside of the self-serving politicians who duped the taxpayers into paying for it.

coco rubio
4
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coco rubio 06/06/07 - 09:11 am
0
0
i swear that if the place had

i swear that if the place had an entrance that actually attracted visitors, it might have worked......the statue of bobby jones is surrounded by a gate that forces visitors to go around the way to enter and it just never seemed too inviting......plus, you have to pay, and we all know that's a tough sell in augusta......maybe it should have been free.....and accept donations......anything, as long as more people were encouraged to come in and check it out.......but, i guess we'll never know.......oh well, i guess bring on the baseball stadium!!!!

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 06/06/07 - 09:16 am
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We have a beautiful tranquil

We have a beautiful tranquil place called The Riverwalk that is free for all to enjoy. The only time that The Golf and Gardens ever saw activity was to host a wedding. Build something at the site that will actually have a real impact on downtown and Augusta. A letter to the editor today suggests a performing arts center. That's what should have gone on the land to begin with. As for the few employees that will lose their jobs, well that is always a shame.. But it should not be the responsibilty of the taxpayers to keep throwing millions into a moneypit to keep 6 fulltime and 4 part time employees in a job.

ngm
0
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ngm 06/06/07 - 09:22 am
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I would LOVE to see a

I would LOVE to see a baseball stadium in that spot. It would be another attraction to downtown, and after the games I bet people would go patronize some of the fabulous local restaurants in the area. I could be one more step to improving Augusta.

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 06/06/07 - 09:30 am
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A baseball stadium, a

A baseball stadium, a performing arts center... ANYTHING that actually attracts people to downtown.

inhislove
0
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inhislove 06/06/07 - 09:32 am
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Um where will Border Bash be?

Um where will Border Bash be?

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 06/06/07 - 09:36 am
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Border Bash?? Let's see.. you

Border Bash?? Let's see.. you have The Riverwalk.. The Commons.. Broad Street.... Where do you think they have Arts in the Heart and RiverBlast?

iletuknow
8
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iletuknow 06/06/07 - 09:51 am
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Come on Augusta, get over the

Come on Augusta, get over the ball thing. Every ghetto ridden town in the country has some memorial to someone that has hit,kicked,dribbled, or thrown a ball. Surely our interlect is capable of activities that require more than a couple of brain cells.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7337
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 06/06/07 - 09:57 am
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Close it and use it for

Close it and use it for something else or sell it to a developer, move the statues to Riverwalk or Broad St. Clean up the downtown area so that people aren't afraid to visit it, and whatever you build please put in adequate parking!

hwduncan
57
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hwduncan 06/06/07 - 10:11 am
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Perhaps Monty Osteen might

Perhaps Monty Osteen might wish to fund it...it could be the Osteen Golf and Gardens.

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 06/06/07 - 10:25 am
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I say sell the land to Clay

I say sell the land to Clay Boardman.. he would do something great with it.

dashiel
176
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dashiel 06/06/07 - 11:20 am
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The Garden City deserves one

The Garden City deserves one fine public garden. Unfortunately, the "Golf Gardens" has exhibited a snobby (all of us and none of you) attitude from the beginning. Why should ordinary taxpayers pay to support such selfish elitism? I suggest that we drop the word golf and truly make this Augusta's garden. Assign allotments, set high standards, and I bet there are plenty of Augusta gardeners--black and white--who would maintain these gardens as a genuine source of civic pride.
PS--I also know this goes counter to all bureaucratic thinking, another reason to give it a try!

Augusta Mom
1
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Augusta Mom 06/06/07 - 11:27 am
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It's such a shame to see this

It's such a shame to see this close ....so much money has gone into it over the years. Then I think of all those massages for employees, etc. Again, mismanagement of funds---which is so frequent in Augusta. I do not think that the statues should be moved to Broad St or the Riverwalk. Do we forget how they were damaged before being moved from Riverwalk to the Golf and Gardens?? Augusta doesn't know how to take care of anything like that. Maybe a nice Performing Arts Center and a new stadium next door....... Something everyone can enjoy.

shygirlj
0
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shygirlj 06/06/07 - 11:29 am
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I went there one time -- and

I went there one time -- and was shocked that Ihad to pay so much to get in. It was beautiful -- way nicer than the riverwalk -- but I can't afford to pay to go someplace like that on a regular basis. And it doesn't make sense when there are free areas nearby or around the city. I hate to see the place go, but I guess that's what happens when you implement poorly planned ideas. Private funding should've been the way to go. And it would've been nice to have similar events to those held at the Appleby Library in the summer -- quiet concerts, etc. It was very relaxing, that one time I went. :)

clq4741
0
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clq4741 06/06/07 - 11:30 am
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I would like to see something

I would like to see something othere than a baseball stadium, common sense tells me that the one we have is really nice, and the fact is no matter where the stadum is located, patrons will only show up by the hundreds if the team is WINNING!
Put a water front golf practice facility there, driving range, puttin, chipping. A top end facility, the best of everything, I live in Evans and Id drive down there.

clq4741
0
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clq4741 06/06/07 - 11:31 am
0
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What about a par 3 golf

What about a par 3 golf course, we had one in Evans but the land was bought for the New Taget..That would be fun.

Augusta Mom
1
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Augusta Mom 06/06/07 - 11:33 am
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I agree, Skygirl! The price

I agree, Skygirl! The price was just too much. And when you've seen the place once or twice, and nothing was changed or improved, why pay again?? Riverwalk is a mess...nasty, dangerous, and in dire need of repairs. The Golf and Gardens would have had a much better chance if it had not charged admission. And there were too many hands in the pockets from the beginning. It's such a shame.....it could have really been something!

clq4741
0
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clq4741 06/06/07 - 11:34 am
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What we need in Augusta,

What we need in Augusta, preferably downtown is to turn all of the vacant properties into outlet mall type businesses. I went to the outlet malls in St Augustine last weekend and those things are so popular it seems, saturated with patrons dring from hundreds of miles away, I wonder how we could attract that type of undustry instead of the strip mall mom and pop shops that are popping up everywhere.

shygirlj
0
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shygirlj 06/06/07 - 11:39 am
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I've talked to several people

I've talked to several people who were shocked that there were no outlets in or around Augusta. Living here so long, I had never thought about it. I always knew that I had to drive a long way to get to outlets, specialty stores, and upscale shopping [at which I only get to windowshop]. I don't know if downtown would be the right place for outlets, though.

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