April 5, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Masters Week is one of the busiest of the year for the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame's Botanical Gardens, but will it be enough to keep the downtown attraction from shutting down for good?
Staff members are still planning events for the future, but without public funding from the state, the Golf Hall of Fame may not last much longer.
It's supposed to be the Garden City's the main tourist attraction to complement one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world. But on the first day of the Tournament we found anything but a large crowd at the Botanical Gardens.
"Thursday through Friday are usually slower because they're the series badge holders," said executive director Dianne King.
King maintains business has been up to par with Masters visitors, averaging about 200 people a day.
She credits some of the increase to the brand new signature mini course, opening for the first time this week.
"The holes are the replications of the top 18 holes in Georgia, so you can play Georgia's best holes here at the Hall of Fame," King said.
But even their success now may not be able to keep them afloat much longer. Instead of being in the green, they're $300,000 in the red. Without help from state legislators, King says they may be forced to close the iron gates as early as June.
"Maintenance on the garden is $500,000 a year," she said. "We've been trying to cut expense to control that, but maintaining 25 display gardens is an expensive process."
Lisa Chapman says in the last 15 years she's lived in North Augusta, she's come to the gardens only three times. She suggests that the hefty admission price may be what keeps the garden from staying alive.
"It's not a big enough garden to warrant that kind of money," she said. "I think families will have a problem with that."
King tells us that to help offset some of those maintenance costs for the garden, they've developed relationships with private sponsors and even put in synthetic turf for the new mini-course so the upkeep won't be quite as high.