Replace St. Augustine mini golf course?

Residents have chance to give input

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - The city of St. Augustine could soon decide the fate of Bayfront Mini Golf, a popular attraction next to the Bridge of Lions in the heart of the historic downtown.

The course is owned by the city but is leased and operated by the same company that operates Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

The city doesn't want to renew its lease with the course, and it has offered three proposals to St. Augustine residents: Keep the carpet golf course on the bay, replace it with something else or replace it with green space.

"While there's so much to be gained from historical attractions with families and children, children also have a time limit. Their patience runs out with the historical attractions," said Kim Kiff, general manager of St. Augustine Attractions.

It's been a topic up for discussion for the past few weeks. Now the people of St. Augustine can weigh in on the future of the attraction at a commission meeting Monday night.

"We had close to 6,000 families come play putt-putt golf in December to play Prancer's putt-putt, so it's become a big part of our business," Kiff said.

"I think it would be a shame because a lot of the locals, especially my neighborhood, because we're all retired, and this is something we can all do," local resident Shirley Finkelstein said.

"I think it would be a great loss," tourist Jeffery Tyson said.

The question arose when commissioners learned of the need to remodel the 1949 facility to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Ripley Entertainment currently leases and operates the golf course and says it wants to remodel the course with its own money -- about $50,000. But the commission now wants to discuss the future of the half-acre waterfront site to maybe be used in some other way, such as a wedding venue.

"There may not be a decision made (Monday night)," said Paul Williamson, of the city of St. Augustine. "It's not like they're forced to do it, but what's important tonight is to find out what if there really is a strong community reaction one way or another."

Bayfront Mini Golf is hoping to have an answer Monday night. The lease is up in September.

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