Have you ever wondered what happens when a cemetery runs out of space?
In the case of one cemetery south of Cleveland, the answer is simple - buy a golf course.
Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman has purchased Rawiga Golf Club, which is located just south of the Department of Veterans Affairs facility. The $1.69 million acquisition of the 156-acre course, which was finalized in October, gives the cemetery land for future expansion, however, the property will continue to operate as a golf course for the time being.
The 273-acre national cemetery is one of two in Ohio. It opened in 2000 and today has 49,503 graves and eventually would have run out of space. The deal allows Rawiga's owners to lease back the property until the cemetery needs to expand, which is estimated at 7-15 years, or more, said Rawiga co-owner Bill Colianni, who also is the facility's GM and head pro.
"We're there for all of our outings, banquets, leagues," Colianni told the Akron Beacon Journal. "No one need to worry about us going away. Nothing is changing."
The golf course was designed in the late 1950s by E. Lawrence Packard, who also built four courses at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida, site of the annual PGA Valspar Championship tournament. Rawiga opened as a private club in 1959, but eventually transitioned to a public facility.
Golfers in the area have mixed feelings about the transaction.
Janie Parish, executive director of the Wadsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, said she had mixed feelings about the purchase.
"When it was first put out there that it was being bought by them, I think people were sad because it has been around since the '60s," Janie Parish, executive director of the Wadsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, told the Akron Beacon-Journal. "That's where we do our golf outing every year."
The cemetery also is a prominent and valuable fixture in the county.
The new agreement allows the owners of Rawiga Golf Club to lease back the property until the Western Reserve cemetery needs to expand.
"I just think it's an honor we have that national cemetery," Parish said. "More than anything, it becomes a destination. My parents are both buried at the cemetery."