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Despite disagreement, golf at Woodbine seems over

The village Homer Glen which now owns Woodbine Golf Course plans eventually create 103-acre community park here. | Susan DeMar

The village of Homer Glen which now owns Woodbine Golf Course plans to eventually create a 103-acre community park here. | Susan DeMar Lafferty/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 26, 2014 6:36AM



Folks are not just hitting golf balls at Woodbine Golf Course, they’re tossing around political footballs, too.

Seven months after the Homer Glen Village Board voted unanimously to purchase the 103-acre property and its banquet hall, some trustees still are trying to allow former owner Jim Ludwig to continue to operate the golf course for one more year.

Mayor Jim Daley objects to that idea, and the village board is divided on the issue. Ludwig is willing but says he needs a definitive answer.

Next month, trustees will consider whether to allow another season of golf at Woodbine, while the village proceeds with Williams Architects to remodel the 21,000-square-foot banquet center into the new village hall. Homer Glen also intends to transform the golf course into a public park with sports fields.

The village bought the property out of foreclosure in December for $3.3 million. Ludwig had a management contract through 2015, but he and the village agreed to end all golfing and banquet operations at the end of 2014, with Ludwig vacating the property by Dec. 31.

Employees have begun to leave, and no more banquets have been booked, Ludwig said.

“I am in shutdown mode,” he said, and plans to auction off furnishings in October.

Trustee George Yukich, however, is pushing to allow Ludwig to stay another year and operate the golf course because Homer Glen does not have the money yet to develop the park site. Yukich said Ludwig is willing to remain for another year.

“It doesn’t make sense to let the grass grow and have the taxpayers take care of it,” he said.

At this week’s village board meeting, Yukich said residents living near Woodbine have asked the village to alleviate flooding in the area. He said having the golf course stay open for another year would allow engineers to evaluate the flooding problems while keeping people employed at the golf course.

“If we turn it over to the sports groups (next year), we can’t use it for a golf course,” Yukich said.

Daley said village officials are well aware that the site needs to be engineered and the development of the community park will take time. But in the meantime, residents still can enjoy the open space for walking, jogging, picnicking or just kicking or throwing a ball around.

Ludwig and his brother-in-law turned what was left of his grandfather’s farm into a golf course and opened it June 1988. In 2006, they expanded and built the banquet hall, but two years later “the bottom fell out,” he said.

For five years, they tried to keep the ship afloat, he said, and filed for bankruptcy reorganization in April 2013. But they couldn’t recover, and First Midwest Bank foreclosed on the property, owed $6.6 million, according to court records.

Homer Glen made a purchase offer of $3.3 million and the bank agreed.

“We were forced to sell to Homer Glen. Homer Glen was the only bidder and ultimately took us out of business,” Ludwig said. “No one has talked about the economics of the decision to buy this business.

“There is more to this than mowing. The community needs to know this a big financial commitment. This is not sour grapes but pure fact,” he said.

Ludwig estimated that it would cost $150,000 per year to maintain the grounds and “millions” to design, construct and maintain a 103-acre park.

The loss of his business means an annual loss to the village of about $50,000 each in property and sales tax income and a $625,000 payroll for his employees, according to Ludwig.

Daley sees things differently, citing the monthly reports that Ludwig is required to submit to the village. They indicate that for the first five months of this year, the business was about $19,000 in the red — the banquet operation netted $61,000, but the golf course lost $80,500, the mayor said.

Because the property no longer will be a golf course, it will cost about $28,500 per year to mow, not $150,000, Daley said, and owning its village hall will save Homer Glen the $197,360 per year it now pays in rent and an additional $23,975 for rented storage space.

“We spent $3 million for it, and residents should be able to use it,” he said. “Ludwig is not making any money on it. This is all politics. Yukich is stirring the pot. They do not want to see something great happen on my watch.”

Trustees Ted Kagianas and Marcia DeVivo agree with Daley, while Yukich and Margaret Sabo believe it should be a golf course for another year.

“I have not heard a sound argument in favor of extending the contract,” DeVivo said, adding that village officials want to address the flooding problems as soon as possible for those residing adjacent to the golf course. “... I have seen overwhelming support from the residents to develop it into a park and to resolve the drainage problems, not only in Woodbine but for the downstream residents as well.”

Sabo believes it should be a golf course for another year to allow more time to decide exactly what to do with the land.

“We need to plan it slowly and thoughtfully” and consider the “quality of life” of residents next to the golf course, she said. “The golf course has many challenges. We want to do it right.”

Contributing: Correspondent Michelle Mullins



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