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Parks advocates want wider discussion on future of Royal Mayfair Golf Club land

The Royal Mayfair Golf Club's lease is up for discussion at city hall next week, and some parks advocates are calling for more public involvement before the deal is approved.

Private club's lease on city land would end in 2069 if 18-year extension is approved

Despite the sign at the entrance to the club, the grounds are open to the public in the winter. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The Royal Mayfair Golf Club's lease is up for discussion at city hall next week, and some parks advocates are calling for more public involvement before the deal is approved.

The Mayfair is requesting an 18-year extension on its current lease on city-owned land in the river valley, adjacent to Hawrelak Park. If approved, the new lease would expire in February 2069.

The lease terms include a total of $870,000 in prepaid market rent for the additional 18 years, said a city report released Thursday.

As part of the deal, the golf club "will allow public use of groomed ski trails located on the leased lands for the sole purpose of cross-country skiing, from Dec. 1 to March 31," the report says.

The lease was last extended in 2001 to 2051 for $1.75 million.

The Mayfair is requesting the extension to allow it to modernize.

"In an effort to attract future members and retain current members, the Royal Mayfair is considering significant reinvestment in its facilities over the next 15 years," says the report, which is on the agenda for Monday's meeting of city council's executive committee.

The lease extension would give the club another full 50-year term in order to "provide long-term certainty as required by their lenders," the report says.

Michael Janz with Friends of Our Park wants lease negotiations for the Mayfield golf course to be public. The golf Club's lease is up for discussion at city hall next week. 0:53

The report notes that public engagement is not typically conducted through the lease negotiation process. But it acknowledges there has been "some public interest related to the private nature" of the Mayfair club's operations.

Michael Janz, with the group called Friends of Our Park, wants a wider public discussion. City councillors should not approve the lease extension without public consultation, the group said.

"The entirety of the Mayfair golf course occupies prime river valley land within walking distance of the university, of downtown," Janz said Thursday.

"Yet it's the exclusive playground of only the 400 members, not the rest of us. The other one million Edmontonians are not welcome there if we don't pay the dues."

Janz is urging the city to re-evaluate how the large piece of parkland in the river valley should be used.

"Just because something was once a golf course doesn't mean it should always be a golf course," he said. "I think we need to have a conversation about alternative uses, about fair return on investment, and how much money is it really fair for us to ask as a city for such an enormous piece of crown-jewel land."

The Mayfair's site doesn't specify the golf course area, but Golf Week magazine has said the typical urban 18-hole golf course ranges from 110 to 190 acres.

"These decisions shouldn't be made in isolation as one-offs for one golf course," Janz said. "They should be part of a broader strategy about our vision for city land and our vision for our parks."

The club has 475 shareholders.

Director of golf Matt Johnson wouldn't say how much the different memberships cost at the Mayfair, only that annual memberships at private golf clubs in Edmonton range from $10,000 to $45,000. Mayfair memberships would be on the higher end of that scale, he said.

Spouses can take out memberships without being shareholders but must pay membership fees as well.

There are also intermediate membership categories for people under 36 who have several years to pay off lifetime membership dues.

In total, the Mayfair has 750 golfers and 200 social members, another kind of membership.

In a promotional video posted to the club's website, general manager Wade Hudyma talks about the benefits of the course..

"The Royal Mayfair Golf Club is one of the prettiest parts of Edmonton, it's in the heart of the city, it's a beautiful tree-lined golf course, it's located just minutes of downtown."

A group from the Mayfair is expected to speak at city council's executive committee meeting on Monday.

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