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South Jordan Journal

Renovated Mulligans living up to its golf-concept name with new ‘Caddie Shack’ and more

Jul 25, 2019 04:47PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

Mulligans is a cultural amenity, a “gateway” to the city from the Jordan River Parkway and “the last environmental holdout,” maintains the founder of the Save Mulligans resident effort, which has kept the family-fun center in operation. (Mulligans/South Jordan City)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

It is the night of the Mulligans grand reopening. 

South Jordan residents and other guests to the city-owned Mulligans family-fun center are swinging away in batting cages and driving ranges alike. 

They are slurping ice cream/slushie Screamers (sort of what “sliders” are to hamburgers) and chowing down on fries and burgers from the new Mulligans Caddie Shack Grill.

South Jordan City Council members are enjoying their complimentary vouchers for the night, distributed in previous council meetings by SoJo Economic Development Director Brian Preece.

A correction shot

Mulligans wants to live up to the concept of a mulligan in golf—something that you want to do, then redo, except in the case of the family center it just means you keep wanting to experience more and more fun with each visit.

The term “mulligan” is rare in sports, inasmuch that it is named for an actual person—the late Canadian amateur golfer David Bernard Mulligan, who, back in the 1920s, made it a practice to take a second “correction shot”—what members of his golf foursome quickly dubbed “a mulligan”—if he was displeased with his first drive.

Today’s Mulligans is a South Jordan-owned family fun center, known to serve as many as a quarter-of-a-million guests in years past with its varied activities, ranging from batting cages to driving ranges to miniature golf to a nine-hole “executive” or beginner golf course.

“Mulligans is unique in that it is a city-owned family fun center,” said Rachael Van Cleave, public information officer for South Jordan. “Cities often own golf courses, but you won’t find cities owning places like Mulligans.”

That statement continues to concern Mulligans-supporting residents.

South Jordan’s owning Mulligans was anything but a surety just a few years ago, when the 27-year old center was heavily scrutinized by the SoJo City Council for being a $250,000 annual drain on city budget coffers. 

The cost of keeping Mulligans was exacerbated in many minds, when the lure of possible redevelopment of the area yielding big dollars to the city, got traction.

What appeared to get even more traction, however, was resident love for Mulligans.

‘Save Mulligans!’

Just as the Glenmoor Golf Course recently survived, thanks in part to a “Save Glenmoor” campaign, which, in that instance, led to the course’s being sold to new private buyers to maintain the green-space, versus making it developable, Mulligans is still on the map. This is thanks to a grassroots, resident-buoyed “Save Mulligans” campaign.

South Jordan City officials purchased Mulligans in 2004 with the commitment to preserve green space and a green “gateway” to the city. The commitment became tenuous, as members of the council advocated selling the land for mixed-use development. Resounding resident input scrapped that idea. 

However, Save Mulligans continued to be a loud voice in the question of Mulligan’s future. Members of the city council pushed for the pricy redevelopment plan that the “Mulligans Moms” (speaking of the overwhelmingly female constitution of the group and its all-women leadership) loudly vetoed, asserting that major changes to the facility would incur too much debt. This would make the unique community amenity vulnerable to sale.

Funding the fun

At the Mulligans grand reopening, South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey emphasized the city’s “having cash” to reopen the facility. 

The bond to purchase Mulligans was paid off early in 2015. Paying the bond off early saved SoJo $1.8 million over the life of the loan, and, according to city officials, allowed for improvements such as the new clubhouse and maintenance of the facility “as a top-notch family-fun destination.”

Next up in terms of renovations are upgrades to the site’s batting cages, mini-golf options, overall golf-course improvements and maintenance, maintenance, maintenance.

“The clubhouse remodel and grill are just the first phase of improvements we’ll be making at Mulligans,” says Van Cleave. “Visitors can eventually expect an upgraded mini golf course, among other things.”

‘The last environmental holdout’

Of the facility reopening and plan for grander remodels, longtime Mulligans supporter and Save Mulligans Mom Carol Rich Brown, who runs the influential, 1,500-member Involved South Jordan Citizens on Facebook, observed: “South Jordan can save Mulligans if the city council pays off its loan, keeps it well maintained with great customer service and then reevaluates every change with [return on investment] as the main concern.”

“Mulligans is an icon for the city,” said Daybreak resident and SoJo Planning Commission Vice Chair Julie Holbrook, who purchased her home proximate to Mulligans based off of the city’s early and stated commitment to preserving the site for green space. “It has been there so many years and should be kept as natural as possible for people to pass through and enjoy the wildlife.”

“Mulligans is the last environmental holdout,” said Holbrook, a conservationist who studied oceanography at the collegiate level.

Still Save Mulligans?

Holbrook is the former president of Save Mulligans. While the website, videos, Twitter account and other efforts of the group are still online, Holbrook has resigned her role.

Such is definitely not the case for resident Janalee Tobias. “I’ve been fighting to preserve the Jordan River since 1996” is how she frames her support for Mulligans. 

Tobias, who attended the Mulligans grand reopening, is still crusading for the South Jordan City Council to—as it did with Glenmoor, which she deems a “pet project” of some of the council—do more, go further with its protection of Mulligans by creating long-term legal protection of the area to secure it from future reach of what she depicts as “greedy developers.”

Tobias is alight with ideas for the site, which would not carry the heavy investment burden she sees the city as taking, yet would really amplify the presence of what she sees as an essential community amenity.

Just as David Bernard Mulligan perfected the concept of that “correction shot” that created the golf term mulligan and gave the SoJo fun center its name—it seems Tobias and other Mulligans Moms may continue to seek correction shots to preserve it in perpetuity as a community asset they love.