Desiring a new ice rink, among other athletic facilities, the University of St. Thomas made a $61.4 million lot for the private Town & Country Club golf course on Mississippi River Boulevard in St. Paul.
“The immediate need is for an ice hockey arena,” St. Thomas spokesman Andy Ybarra said in an email. “The university is also considering softball, baseball, indoor practice facilities and parking.”
Officials at Town & Country, site of Minnesota’s oldest golf course, circulated the news among their members and hired a law firm to evaluate the unsolicited offer.
The university is also considering land on the Highland Bridge development, site of the former Ford automobile manufacturing plant in Highland Park, among “several options being considered,” Ybarra said. “No decision has been made”
Both the Tommies men’s and women’s hockey teams now skate in NCAA Division I and since 2003 have played home games at the St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights, which is shared with St. Thomas Academy and only has a capacity of 1000 people.
Matt Winkel, chairman of the Town & Country Club, issued a written statement to members this week saying he was writing on behalf of the board to determine their interest, but he expressed doubts about a potential sale.
“To be clear, no club property has been offered for sale, and this offer was completely unsolicited,” he wrote.
The property in question is east of Otis Avenue and spans the entire golf course.
“On a preliminary basis, our board has serious doubts as to whether we could honor our club’s purpose, which is ‘to provide recreational and social functions to its members’, by agreeing to sell the land of golf,” Winkel wrote.
He also raised concerns about possible tax liabilities in the event of a sale, whether the club’s not-for-profit and historically tax-exempt status would allow the sale, and “what the club would look like if we were to proceed”.
The club has engaged the law firm Best & Flanagan “to ensure we meet our fiduciary responsibilities to the club and our members every step of the way,” Winkel wrote.