MINNEAPOLIS – In a burst of good fortune for east-metro golf, the 3M Co. has sold its struggling 483-acre Washington County retreat to a national sporting group that promises to turn it into the metro area's premier public golfing destination.
Legendary golf champions Annika Sorenstam and Arnold Palmer will redesign the current 27 holes at Tartan Park into 18 holes that will appeal to the public with emphasis on youth and families, said Hollis Cavner, the CEO of ProLinks Sports, a Florida group.
"Good public golf courses, run properly, make money," he said. And the new course in Lake Elmo, scheduled to open in 2017, "will be much different from Tartan Park. This is big-time golf."
The new course will be named "The King and The Queen," and in keeping with the royalty theme, Tartan Park will be renamed the Royal Golf Club at Lake Elmo.
"This is the best piece of land anywhere. We are going to protect it," said Cavner, who won approval from Lake Elmo city officials because of plans to make the land environmentally sustainable. That means less water pumped from the ground for irrigation and new plantings of native grasses, among other changes, he said.
The price of the sale wasn't disclosed, but Cavner said it's entirely financed by private investors and the total investment will range from $15 million to $20 million. Tartan Park was valued in the county's 2015 assessment at $5.186 million.
Last May, 3M announced that it would sell Tartan Park, a year after opening the course to the public in hopes of reversing revenue losses.
"There were several interested parties and this could have looked very different," said Julie Fliflet, a Lake Elmo City Council member. "This is a development on our terms. ... I was very nervous about what might have happened here with the sale of Tartan Park."
Instead, she said, the "spectacular outcome" preserves open spaces and the rural suburb's natural landscape.
For 50 years, Tartan Park attracted golfers to its rolling and wooded refuge – but on condition they worked for 3M or knew someone who did.
The company retreat, adjacent to the 2,000-acre Lake Elmo Regional Park Reserve, includes 12 tennis courts, six picnic pavilions, four softball fields, an archery range, bocce ball courts and a wedding gazebo.
Most of those amenities will remain open for public use this year, although the clubhouse will close for remodeling, Cavner said. "We're going to be good neighbors," he said.
Cavner, on behalf of his group HC Golf Course Development LLC, described a project that he said would have far-reaching implications for building golf as a family sport.
His ProLinks Sports runs six PGA Tour events nationwide, and Cavner helped build TPC Twin Cities, a Palmer-designed 18-hole course in Blaine. However, he said, PGA tournaments won't be played in Lake Elmo.
The new Royal Golf Club will embrace 3M employees and retirees, he said, but also the wider community with an emphasis on youth because "we've got to get more kids on the golf course."
Plans include a new year-round restaurant, a fitness and wellness center, and an event center overlooking the course. The second phase of the project could include a community pool, he said.
High-end housing – 350 single-family homes and villas – will be built in some portions of the sprawling property but none on the lakes, and the housing won't resemble a typical residential development, Cavner said.
"We're so against that, it's unreal," he told some Lake Elmo residents who attended Tuesday's announcement.
'A game for life'
Sorenstam, who came to Lake Elmo for the announcement, amassed 89 worldwide victories, including 72 on the LPGA, 10 of which were major championships. She was the first and only woman to surpass $20 million in LPGA career earnings.
"This has a lot of potential. It's a beautiful piece of land," said Sorenstam, who retired from competitive golfing in 2008. She has finished courses in China, South Africa and South Korea, but the Lake Elmo course will be her first on American soil.
Opening the new course will be first, followed by other phases of the project that could take years, Cavner said.
City Council Member Anne Smith said Cavner contacted her about eight months ago to inquire about Tartan Park, and said he's shown "deep respect" for Lake Elmo and its residents.
Mayor Mike Pearson said of the deal: "It's a great ending, and a beginning we're all going to appreciate."
This article was written by Kevin Giles from Star Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.