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Golf Complex Plan Unveiled by City Park
$46 million project to be done in two phases

Brian Allee-Walsh
Times Picayune

The City Park board of commissioners unveiled a "master plan" Tuesday that would convert hundreds of dormant acreage into a new $46 million golf complex on which construction could begin by the end of 2009.

Phase 1 would cost approximately $24.5 million and include the construction of an 18-hole championship course, clubhouse, access road to the clubhouse and parking, driving range, range clubhouse and maintenance facility, all encompassed between I-610 and Filmore Avenue and bounded east by Marconi Boulevard and west by Wisner Boulevard.

Of that $24.5 million, City Park has in hand about $15.5 million in FEMA-related money ($5.9 million) and state capital outlay funds ($9.654 million). The Bayou District Foundation, a non-profit, is in the process of raising approximately $9 million in private funds to complete the costs of the first phase.

The 18-hole North Course at City Park will remain open for play during construction of Phase 1.

Phase 2 of the master plan will cost approximately $21.5 million and will feature a second 18-hole golf course, a nine-hole, par 3 course and a First Tee teaching facility. The North Course will cease daily operations once construction begins on Phase 2. There is no timetable to begin the phase.

"This is a big deal to us; this is huge," City Park Chief Executive Officer Bob Becker said at the conclusion of the 90-minute meeting at the Botanical Gardens. "This is the first time that we have a draft of the master plan for golf in hand. The board saw it, thought it was worthy enough to go out and get public comment on it, and we'll see what happens after that.

"Hopefully, we would approve this plan or some modification of this plan, and it will become part of the park's master plan for golf."

The park's idea for a master plan originated before Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005 and ravaged the 1,300-acre park, destroying several thousand trees and causing millions of dollars in property damage to the East, West and North courses.

The North Course reopened in September after undergoing $1.3 million in repairs and renovations while the East and West courses continue to lay in disrepair and serve as green space.

"Optimistically, we would hope to open Phase 1 in the fall of 2011, the spring of 2012 at the worst," Becker said. "That is our goal, the best-case scenario. I don't know if we can achieve that. I hope we can achieve that."

The new 45-hole golf complex will cover 400 acres. It is designed by renowned golf course architect Rees Jones, who has worked closely with City Park officials and officials from the Bayou District Foundation.

The high-end No. 1 course (par 72, 7,520 yards) will occupy the southern portion of the golf footprint, site of the most recent East and West courses. The shorter and less expensive No. 2 course (par 72, 7,010 yards) will start south of Filmore, cross the road and wrap around a new nine-hole executive course where the North Course currently is located.

Plans call for a new $3.3 million clubhouse that can be accessed off Wisner Boulevard, where Mirabeau currently dead-ends into the park.

"We've been in close discussions with the Bayou District Foundation," said Becker, referring to the group led by Mike Rodrigue and other members of the Fore!Kids Foundation, which produces the annual Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana. "We wanted to develop a plan that they felt good about and they were comfortable with and one that we feel comfortable with.

"That said, now we have a plan that everybody likes and allows us to go forward. Now it comes time to seeking someone to make up the rest of the money that we don't have. We need a partner to do all of this, and no one other than Bayou District Foundation has stepped up."

A public meeting to discuss the master plan (and projected greens and cart fees) is scheduled for March 10. The 36-member board of commissioners could vote on the matter as early as its next scheduled monthly meeting March 24.

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