Monday, April 12, 2004

Florence property could get makeover

Rust, leaking roofs lead Florence to consider rebuilding aging World of Sports complex

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE - Matt Carey brought his two sons to play a round of miniature golf Friday on a familiar course.

"I remember playing it as a kid," said the 44-year-old Edgewood resident. The course, with its animals and waterfall, and the World of Sports complex around it hasn't changed much since Carey played there years ago.

That could change soon.

Florence is considering tearing down the aging complex it has owned since 1991 and rebuilding a modern, more family-friendly destination.

The golf course and driving range would remain unchanged. The racquetball, fitness center, and pool hall could be replaced with games and multipurpose party rooms.

And the miniature golf course could get a $200,000 makeover.

"Any time you put taxpayers' money into something that they get back, I think it's great" Carey said as he watched his 3-year-old son, Noah, climb under the rock waterfall.

Florence hired CDS Associates, a group of engineers, architects, planners and surveyors, to assess the buildings.

They found a rusted leaking roofs, inadequate ventilation and bathrooms that aren't handicapped accessible. The city could spend $1 million to fix the problems in the existing buildings, or $2.4 million to renovate them.

Or it could spend $2.3 million for a new, 12,000 square-foot building and an updated miniature golf course, the consultants said.

"This is a very visible and very positive representation of what the city of Florence is," said Mayor Diane Whalen. "We want to make sure we put the best face on it and come up with funding to make that happen."

At budget meetings next month, City Council will recommend how the city should proceed, Whalen said.

The city bought the 65-acre complex on Woodspoint Drive, including the golf course, racquetball, fitness center, miniature golf and billiards hall in 1991 for $4.4 million.

"It's a very valuable piece of property," Whalen said. "We get approached on a monthly basis by developers who think that's the next best place to put a strip mall or a big box."

The land, tucked between Interstate 75 and the busy retail areas of Mall Road and Houston Road, is worth about $16 million, but it's not for sale, Whalen said.

"Where else in the middle of a well-developed area are you going to find 65 acres of green space owned by the city?" she said.

If the city sold the land, any business there would compete with the city's already-suffering Mall Road retail area, she added.

The aluminum racquetball building was built in the mid-1970s, when racquetball was the hot sport, he said. The golf shop was probably built in the late 1960s, he said.



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