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The members of the historic Town & Country Club in St. Paul have rejected an offer from the University of St. Thomas to buy its golf course so it can build Division I sports facilities. 

St. Thomas had approached the country club, offering to buy its 94-acre golf course for $61.4 million. The country club informed members about this last week, and on Tuesday night members rejected the proposal. 

This isn't a huge surprise. In a letter to members last week, the club's president had expressed doubts about the proposal and what selling the golf course would mean for the future of the country club.

In a statement to KSTP, Town & Country Club said the club "is not for sale," and has informed St. Thomas it has "no interest in any further engagement on this topic."

The university, which is down the street from the Town & Country Club, is seeking land to build new Division I sports facilities, including a hockey arena, because there isn't room on the school's 78-acre campus. 

"The club has informed us it is not interested in engaging with the university on this matter, and St. Thomas understands and respects this decision. We appreciate that Town & Country’s leadership brought our interest forward to its membership, and we thank them for their consideration," the University of St. Thomas told Bring Me The News in a statement. 

St. Thomas also said it is also looking at the Highland Bridge development at the former Ford plant site in St. Paul. The university says it will "continue exploring other options that would allow it to develop new facilities to support its D-I athletic programs."

Town & Country Club has a long history in St. Paul, starting out as a social organization. The clubhouse, built in 1890, was designed by Cass Gilbert, who designed the Minnesota State Capitol building. And a few years later, in 1893, the first round of golf ever played in Minnesota was played at Town & Country Club, the club's website says.

The original story is below.

The University of St. Thomas is looking at buying Town & Country Club's roughly 94-acre golf course in St. Paul to build Division I sports facilities and other amenities.

The university approached Town & Country Club in St. Paul — the oldest country club in Minnesota and among the oldest in the United States — to see if it would be interested in selling its golf course for $61.4 million. 

The club's historic clubhouse, pool, and tennis courts would not be part of the deal.

In an email to members, Town & Country Club President Matt Winkel shared the club had received an "unsolicited proposal" from St. Thomas to buy the entire golf course, noting the club's property has not been made available for sale. 

The letter says the board has "serious doubts" that it could honor the purpose of the club if it agreed to sell the golf course, adding there are "several significant unanswered questions" concerning the proposal, including whether it could keep its tax-exempt status and what the club would look like if they sold the land. 

In a statement to Bring Me The News, the University of St. Thomas said it's been evaluating "several options" to build new facilities to support its new Division I athletics programs because there's no room to do so on its 78-acre campus.

St. Thomas is first looking to build a new D-I hockey arena because the Tommies currently play at the 1,000-seat St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights, which it says isn't big enough for D-1 games. 

So the school is eyeing two properties in particular to expand its athletic facilities: the Highland Bridge development at the former Ford plant and a portion of Town & Country Club's property, which is down the street from the university's campus. 

"The Town & Country location offers the benefits of proximity to campus, and its size offers flexibility for our current campus footprint, which could potentially free up space for academic uses," the university's statement said. "To ensure all options are explored, St. Thomas has approached Town & Country to gauge whether it would ever consider selling a portion of its property. If Town & Country determines it may be interested in selling, we will engage the club in further discussions; if there is no interest, we will proceed with evaluating other sites."

Town & Country Club said in the letter it will carefully analyze the proposal and determine how it would impact the club and its members.

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"Conducting this analysis is not an indication that we are favorably inclined toward the university's proposal, but rather a recognition that we must conduct a robust and deliberate process so that we can make an informed decision about next steps," Winkel's letter said.

As news broke about the proposed offer, discussion was sparked on social media from those living in St. Paul about alternative uses for the land, such as for housing or public open space.

Town & Country Club has a long history in St. Paul, starting out as a social organization. The clubhouse, built in 1890, was designed by Cass Gilbert, who designed the Minnesota State Capitol building. And a few years later, in 1893, the first round of golf ever played in Minnesota was played at Town & Country Club, the club's website says.

Bring Me The News has reached out to Town & Country Club for comment. 

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