After 25 years without a building, the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame will go home — to the home of Executive Director Dianne King, that is. The board of directors voted to close the doors on the site of the offices and botanical gardens as of June 30.
“We’re very proud of the effort put forth by the staff, the board, the volunteers, the sponsors. None of us can walk away without holding our heads up high,” said Marketing Director Robyn Jarrett. “Any responsible person will wonder if there’s something they could have done differently.
Jarrett says that the closing comes just as things were looking up for the gardens. She estimated that 20,000 people attended the Border Bash event held there and 8,000 attended the Mayor’s held Masters Reception every year. The GGHF had launched a traveling exhibit of memorabilia that visited partner golf courses around the state. The state had allocated it an additional $633,685. The opening of the new mini-golf course, based on famous holes from courses around the state, had increased foot traffic and membership purchases, although Jarrett could not offer specific numbers.
“And we were very proud that we had everything out there donated. The design, the turf and the landscaping were all donated,” Jarrett said.
But Gov. Sonny Perdue made an 11th-hour line-item veto and cut the funds from the state’s $20.2 billion budget for the fiscal year. Six full-time employees and four part-time employees will be laid off next month, including Jarrett, who just returned from maternity leave. King will be retained, and operations will move to her residence.
“I think the main thing that I want people to know is that the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame will continue to honor our mission and our members,” Jarrett said.
The botanical gardens were part of the larger plans to develop the property, which included the putting course and a museum. Over time, the state has financed about $7 million of the organization’s expenditures, and an additional $6 million bond referendum is still being paid by taxpayers.
The organization is what the state refers to as “administratively attached,” according to Alison Tyrer, senior communications specialist at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, under which the hall of fame authority is funded. Employees of the hall are not considered state employees, though the land is owned by the state.
“It’s very complicated because the land is state land with the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame entrusted with it. So do we keep it until we can find a proposal, a joint partnership, whether it’s the ball stadium or something else that is feasible?” Jarrett said.
Mayor Deke Copenhaver has proposed building a baseball stadium downtown, which he says could fit on the remainder of the 14-acre site without disturbing the botanical gardens.
“But it’s in its infancy and there’s much work to be done,” Copenhaver said.
The state of Georgia has yet to determine what will happen to the land.
“While these are state of Georgia owned properties, the responsibility of maintenance of these facilities have not yet been determined,” said Ericka Davis, director of communication for the Georgia Building Authority, the arm of the state responsible for property management.
But Jarrett said that despite the layoffs, she holds out hope for the future of the gardens and the hall of fame.