ST. MARYS — One of the newest additions to K.C. Geiger Park recently welcomed its 7,300th visitor.
“It’s exceeded our expectations,” St. Marys Safety-Service Director Tom Hitchcock said about the miniature golf course in K.C. Geiger Park. “As of yesterday (Wednesday) we had 7,319 people go through. We’ve even had 2,000 go through on the honor system out there.”
The course opened earlier this year after being authorized last year by city councilors. Hitchcock said city officials, despite having no frame of reference, set a goal of 5,000 players for the course during the summer months.
“We didn’t know what to expect for sure but thought if we could get 5,000 people to go through, that would be awesome,” Hitchcock said. “We didn’t know if 5,000 was an obtainable goal but how it has turned out, it has far exceeded anything we thought we would do.”
Shortly before SummerFest, the city instituted an honor system for the course. A locked box was placed at the start of the course for players to deposit money in exchange for a putter and a ball. So far, Hitchcock said the arrangement has worked out well.
“We go out there in the morning and there is no trash, no vandalism,” Hitchcock said.
“There has been a lot of pride from people who play it not to damage the course and we’d like to thank the public for that.”
Not only are local people playing the course, but the facility is attracting visitors from surrounding communities. Hitchcock said that was one of the main goals for building the course.
“We’ve heard nothing but positive comments and when you go out there, there are a lot of people from other communities coming to play it,” Hitchcock said. “When people around here say let’s do something, we want St. Marys to be their first thought — whether it’s shopping, eating or recreation and I think we are getting to that point where people are looking at St. Marys as being their first option to go some place.”
Helping operate the course and concession stand have been a slew of nonprofit groups throughout the area. For each group that works the facility, members get to keep half the money and the city gets the other half.
“We had our end of the year meeting with the nonprofits a few week ago and we’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from them,” Hitchcock said. “They helped us by working it and they made some really good money and from all the groups, it sounds like they want to do it again next year.”
For the rest of the season, the course will continue to operate under the honor system. Hitchcock said the facility will be closed when the weather dictates it.
“We are planning to keep it open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day until it gets cold enough that we have to winterize so we don’t damage the pumps,” Hitchcock said. “That depends on how fast it freezes.”
Winterizing the rest of the facility should not take much effort, Hitchcock noted.
“According to the contractor and designer, there is nothing we need to do with it (the carpets),” Hitchcock said. “It’s an outdoor carpet so water and ice shouldn’t affect it. They say the lifespan of the carpet is five to seven years and we’ve had a lot of play on it this year and the carpet is in great shape this first year.”