The Wichita Park Board voted 4-3 Friday night in favor of plan to close the L.W. Clapp Golf Course in southeast Wichita.
City staff had recommended the closure as a way to help fill a roughly $600,000 hole in the golf fund’s operating budget next year. A report shows Clapp is the lowest-performing course in the city’s golf system.
Many residents spoke out against the closure during a three-hour meeting Friday. The meeting had to be moved to a larger room to accomodate all those who attended.
Opponents of the plan say south Wichita already has lost too many amenities.
One speaker pointed out that Clapp is the only municipal golf course east of Main Street, and south of Douglas Avenue; another called the closure a "punch in the eye for the south side of Wichita." Others asked why there had been no discussion about improving Clapp to bring back golfers; a recent city report showed Clapp has lost more than $600,000 since 2013 and will need more than $7 million in investment and equipment in the coming years.
Though park board members discussed the possibility of closing the course as soon as possible, displacing the eight leagues that currently play there, they ultimately voted to wait until the end of the season, despite costs.
"The community has lost the pool," said board member Bill Ramsey. "They don't have the same types of amenities that some other sections of the city do, and I want you to have every opportunity to enjoy that through the end of the season."
The decision to close the course was made with the stipulations that the city will maintain the 90-acre property as a park; City Council member James Clendenin, who represents southeast Wichita, will help lead the community in developing a master plan to decide what to do with the former golf course; and no alterations will be made there until the master plan is complete.
Though some at Friday's meeting cheered the final vote, Cindy Renard, who serves on the golf advisory committee and lives near Clapp, said she was heartbroken by the decision to close the course, which she called the "heart and soul of the southeast part of Wichita."
"I'm going to play at it every opportunity," she said. "But I don't know where we go from here."
Closing Clapp won’t fix the city’s troubled golf fund entirely. The staff report says more cost-cutting measures will be needed at the four remaining courses.
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