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PHOTO: Normandie Gold Club, located just southwest of UMSL South Campus. Photo courtesy of the US Geological Survey.

 

By Daniel C. Hodges, staff writer for The Current

The University of Missouri–St. Louis is considering purchasing the nearby Normandie Golf Club (NGC) to keep it from falling into the hands of anybody who would develop it without consideration for UMSL and the surrounding communities.  Both the option to purchase and the funding are gifts from anonymous donors and will not affect students’ tuition or fees.

“Friends of UMSL,”as described by Chancellor Thomas George “acquired the option to purchase the property to stave off “improper development of the course [which] could have dire consequences for the campus and other surrounding entities.”  These friends of the University passed that option on to UMSL during the week of October 26.  Currently, UMSL is discussing the purchase with University of Missouri system personnel, the curators of UMSL, and the campus Budget and Planning Committee.  If they agree that the option to purchase should be exercised, the ultimate decision lies with the UMSL curators.  Chancellor George said that the decision is still uncertain, and will be discussed for a few weeks before being made.

There will be absolutely no UMSL or state funds used to purchase the NGC.  Instead, an anonymous donor has offered to gift the University the needed capital.  This anonymous donor is part of a group that has donated to UMSL in the past.  This means there will be no tuition increase, no fee increase, and no additional cost associated with the purchase.  “We are cutting budgets right now,” Chancellor George said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You don’t cut budgets and then go buy a golf course.” Furthermore, though current plans are to keep the site as a golf course, the University has explained they “[have] no intention of using state or campus funds to operate or maintain the property as a golf course,” said Chancellor George.  If they go through with the purchase, the University plans to make the venture neither profitable nor an expense to the campus, instead sinking any profits back into the management of the golf club by a third-party management company.

On October 25, the University held a meeting with residents of Bel-Nor and Greendale to discuss the NGC and their potential purchase.  According to the Post-Dispatch, Chancellor George and University spokesman Bob Samples, associate vice chancellor of advancement for communications, were both on hand to assure residents that UMSL has no plans to disrupt the golf course.  However, neither could promise the attendees that the NGC would remain unchanged for decades to come.  Bel-Nor village Chairman Kevin Buchek told the Post-Dispatch that was his biggest concern, “We’d rather hear them guarantee that it will stay a golf course for the next 20 or 30 years.”

The NGC is 118 acres to the southwest of UMSL and was established in 1901, laying claim to being the oldest public golf course west of the Mississippi River.  Prior to 1985, when the club opened to the public, the golf club was renowned as a venue for the rich and famous.  Once called “the top gambling club in the nation” by Colliers, The Riverfront Times highlighted local lore claiming that celebrities Babe Ruth, Bob Hope, and Frank Sinatra all gambled at Normandie.  The family trust in control of the Normandie Golf Club has attempted several times in the past to sell the property.  According to the St. Louis Business Journal, the appraised value of the golf club is $1.2 million, and its property taxes in 2013 were $30,458.  St. Louis County tax records have an “Emerson W. Harold Trustee” listed as the current owner.

 

© The Current 2014