By Claire Byun
The championship golf course set to open in City Park next month is near completion, though some last-minute additions are still under construction.
City Park’s Board of Directors met Tuesday and discussed the $24 million project before it’s opening date next month. The course, which sparked controversy from the public and nature activists over the past few years, will feature solar-powered “bubbles” in several lagoons and other energy-efficient designs.
“It’s hard to have all these acres that aren’t necessarily revenue producing, but we can find a way,” Steve Bingler, board member, said.
The park’s new Championship Level Golf Course, which is slated to open to the public April 21, has a 250-acre footprint bordered by Filmore Avenue, Harrison Avenue, Marconi Drive, and Wisner Boulevard. The course sits on the southern end of the park and was named Bayou Oaks.
Unlike other aspects of the park, Bayou Oaks takes up a large amount of space but only has a few revenue options, such as course fees and special events in the clubhouse. That, paired with years of public protest, led officials to make parts of the course sustainable.
“It’s not just solar-powered lagoon bubbles – we can find a way to incorporate everything,” Bingler said.
The nearly $24.5 million, 18-hole course incorporates portions of the park’s former East and West golf courses, which were heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and features, among other assets, historic oak trees and existing lagoons. It will also have a new clubhouse which should be finished for the opening, park officials say.
All course sides that aren’t protected by water will have a wooden double rail fence post running through the project, according to board member Robert Smith Lupo. A temporary golf cart storage facility has been erected, Lupo said, which will probably serve as the permanent storage for “quite some time.”
A maintenance building is scheduled for completion in June, Lupo said.
“Any of these kind of projects, when you get toward the end, everybody says it’ll be finished a month from when it should be,” he said.
At its peak, golf in the past has contributed around 40 percent of the entire operating budget of the park, officials said last year. The first golf course in City Park opened in 1901, and before Katrina hit in 2005, the park hosted four courses and a driving range.
Since then, the park has reduced golf acreage from over 500 to around 340 acres, and from four courses to two, but still looks to the new course as a potential money-making asset, officials said. They’ve pointed out that only 15 percent of its operating budget is received through the state, and none comes from the city.
Designed by renowned golf course architect Rees Jones, the new course has been designed to accommodate all players. The Bayou Oaks South Course will join the shorter North Course and will play to a par 72 and can stretch between 5,054 and 7,302 yards, depending on the tee locations for each hole.