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Reading the greens

Just how far would Bethlehem go to save Normanside?

After 84 years of drives, putts and chips, the Normanside Country Club has seen its last tee time. Or has it?

That's certainly been the question on everyone's mind for the past week. In the wake of the club's closing and news it will be sold at auction there has been much talk of what the future of that roughly 280 acres of real estate will be, including at Bethlehem Town Hall, where officials have been crunching the numbers on putting in a bid.

All we're doing is kicking the tires right now, said Supervisor Sam Messina. "I haven't seen enough information either way yet."

Among considerations are not only the value of the property (it's assessed at $3.2 million, but most seem to think it could be had for much less) but also what the town would do with it. Many would like to see its continued operation as a golf course, but it's uncertain if that would be financially viable. The club closed after months of declining membership and a failed search for a private owner to carry on the business.

If the town were to buy the property, it could be run in a number of ways. It could remain membership-driven or be opened up as a purely public course. The banquet and restaurant facilities could be outsourced (the town does this with the concession stand at the pool).

Councilman Kyle Kotary said his initial impression is that Normanside could be a realistic and profitable asset to the town.

"Yes, it's possible, is the short answer," Kotary said. "I feel confident that in a short period of time that we could pay off the course and start making a profit."

The course struggled near the end of its life with declining membership (just 240 golf memberships remained at the closing), but Kotary argued if people were able to pay per-round rather than pony up thousands for a membership, use would increase.

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