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GreatLIFE chairman visits Worthington amid questions about facility's plans

Tom Walsh Sr. spoke to members Tuesday night at the GreatLife Duffer's Bar and Grill to address concerns and questions.

Great Life Worthington
Tom Walsh Sr. spoke at GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness Club in Worthington Tuesday, June 21. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)
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EDIT: This article previously stated the current proposal included the continued operation and maintenance of the GreatLIFE facility by GreatLIFE for a contracted price, based on statements made by Tom Walsh Sr. While this was part of an earlier proposal, representatives from the City of Worthington have stated a contracted price was not included in the most recent proposal discussed by city council at the June 15 meeting.

WORTHINGTON — GreatLIFE Golf and Fitness CEO and Chairman, Tom Walsh Sr., visited Worthington's 18-hole golf course on Tuesday to address concerns and questions from members. The visit followed last week’s special meeting of the Worthington City Council, during which a proposal from Walsh to deed the course and facility to the city was discussed.

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Under Walsh’s proposed agreement, the city would become responsible for the cost of chemicals and fertilizers used in the maintenance of the golf course grounds — which last year cost $24,000 and Walsh anticipated $30,000 for this year. Additionally, GreatLIFE would continue to operate and maintain the facility.

As part of that agreement, GreatLIFE would pay the city of Worthington 50% of the first $100,000 in annual cash flow.

The city would also become responsible for any capital improvements that need to be made to the facility. Walsh stated that a year and a half ago, they received a bid for about $300,000 in order to make the improvements necessary to the facility — not including the parking lot, and changes necessary to make the facility ADA compliant.

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“We were going to do the exterior of the building, windows, insulation, drop the ceiling down in the bar dining room,” Walsh listed off. “Now, for all of that, we’d probably be looking closer to $400,000.”

However, Walsh stated that one of the biggest concerns with the facility is water access. While the golf course has used an easement — granted to the city during it’s ownership of the course — to access up to 30 million gallons of water to maintain the grounds annually, Walsh said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has begun to “crack down” on water usage from Lake Okabena.

No formal citations have been issued by the DNR at this time.

Worthington City Council members agreed to look into the legality of transferring water rights to the golf course during its meeting last week, which could help GreatLIFE secure water.

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“If they do that, it’s great,” Walsh said. “But we still need to look at somewhere between $400,000 to $450,000 in repairs to bring (this facility) up to GreatLife standards.”

Should the city reject the proposal, Walsh says GreatLife will seek more corporate partners, secure additional members — of which the Worthington facility currently has about 400 — and increase dues.

Walsh said the facility is likely to raise it’s membership dues July 1 — $10 for golf and fitness, and $5 for those with fitness only memberships — regardless of what happens with the proposal. Since taking over the facility, this will mark the second dues increase in eight years.

While nothing official is scheduled yet, Walsh said a meeting with Worthington city officials will likely take place in the coming weeks, to further discuss the future of the facility and golf course.

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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