Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, city seek vendor for revitalization of Highland Park Golf Course, the city's historical golf course where Black golfers could play golf at a time when the sport as a profession was primarily off limits to Blacks
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Led by Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, the city of Cleveland is seeking proposals for a vendor to lease, revitalize, and manage operations of the historic Highland Park Golf Course at 3550 Green Road, which is located in the largely Black village of Highland Hills but is owned by the city.
Vendor responses are due by Oct. 20.
First opened in 1928, Highland Park Golf Course is a 36-hole course operated by an external management company. The mayor wants a tournament-ready course and a leader in community impact and sustainability.
"This course has a rich history of promoting diversity in the sport of golf," said Mayor Bibb, the city's fourth Black mayor and a progressive mayor who took office in January by beating the old guard. "As the golf course nears its centennial, this is an opportunity to elevate it as a premier public course for locals and a destination for golfers across the country,"
Operating costs for the pay-to-play golf course have climbed from $120,000 in 2018 to $683,000 last year, city officials say, closer to the $1 million a year needed to maintain and operate the place. The golf course began gaining momentum last year after a slump where the city was losing money on the facility.
As the only public course near Cleveland's east side, Highland has historically been a welcoming course for minority players in an overwhelmingly White sport. The Sixth City Golf Club, which was established in1946, and Forest City Golf Club were two pioneering African American golf leagues that played primarily at Highland Park.
The course also hosted the inaugural PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship in 1987, at which African American golf stars, including Lee Elder, Charlie Sifford, Calvin Peete, Jim Dent, and Renee Powell, held free golf clinics for the community. Sifford, known as the "Jackie Robinson of golf" and first black golfer to play and win on the PGA tour, claimed Highland Park as his home course for a time.
During the PGA Tour's Cleveland Open in 1964 and 1965, the course welcomed golf greats like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tony Lema.
"As a young man, this was the first place I played golf," Mayor Bibb said. "It would bring me immense pride to restore the course and create a professional tournament-level course while maintaining it as a space for Black golfers, both aspiring and seasoned, to enjoy."
The city is seeking innovative ideas to re-imagine the golf course for the next 100 years and for the course to continue its history of promoting diversity in golf by opening doors to the sport for new, young golfers from Cleveland and the greater Cleveland area by honoring its past as a predominantly Black golf course.
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