February 12, 2015 – Though only a few ceremonial shovels of dirt were turned Thursday, the long-awaited construction of City Park’s championship golf course has begun. After almost nine years of delays, roadblocks and federal hoops to jump through, City Park hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the course on a chilly morning Thursday.
Duininck Golf Inc., which was awarded the contract in November, will build the $13.2 million course. Construction must be completed by the beginning of 2017, however, it could be ready by the fall of 2016, officials said Thursday.
The course is the crown jewel of City Park’s $24.5 million golf project. City Park will add a new clubhouse for the championship course, new maintenance and golf facilities along with improvements to the North course and the driving range.
All work is expected to be completed when the new course is ready for play.
The new tract, which will be able to play 7,300 yards in length, will be built in the footprint of the former City Park East and West courses, ruined by Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters in 2005. It is a 250-acre plot bordered by Filmore Ave., Harrison Ave., Marconi Dr. and Wisner Blvd.
“It has been a little while for us to get to this point but we’re all pleased to be here,” said Bayou District Foundation chairman Gerard Barousse Jr., whose organization will manage City Park golf. “I think what we will see as a result of everybody’s patience and efforts is going to be a tremendous golf facility.
“What we will see here is going to honor the existing great attributes of this golf course and of City Park. Great oak trees. Great water ways. I think this is going to be a golf course for the city that will provide a great asset. It will complement and help finish the park and the great work that has happened over the last 10 years. We’ll all benefit and see great results and be proud of the work.”
The new course has been anticipated since 2006 after Katrina. The decision was made to rebuild two courses, the North Course, which is up and running, and the championship course.
In November of 2012, City Park announced an agreement with the Bayou District Foundation to manage and run the course. When that agreement was made, they had hoped the course would be opened some time in 2014.
But several delays by FEMA and in state funding put the project on hold.
The $24.5 price tag will be funded by three sources. About $9.5 million will come from the state’s capital outlay budget, $6 million from FEMA and $8.9 from the Bayou District Foundation.
The course design is by Rees Jones Inc. and Torre Design Consortium. Those two companies worked along with the PGA Tour course design team to map out the tract. Bayou District Foundation paid $300,000 for the design, part of the $24.5 million total price tag.
City Park and the Bayou District Foundation agreed to a 35-year contract in November of 2012 for course management. City Park will receive 75 percent of the first $1.15 million in revenues each year with Bayou District getting 25 percent. After that number is reached, City Park will get 55 percent of revenues and Bayou District 45 percent per year.
The park projects to collect as much as $3 million in revenue from the new golf course, the North course and driving range, which opened in 2009.
“This project is so important to the park,” City Park CEO Bob Becker said Thursday. “It achieves a number of goals. First, it restores a historic use. There has always been golf here and it restores that historic use. It repairs one of the last remaining areas of the park still exhibiting damage from Hurricane Katrina. So it’s been a long time getting here. But when this course transforms this area we will have totally erased the memory of Katrina in this park.
“Second, this course and the golf complex will generate very important operating revenue for the park. And for a park that doesn’t get any general tax support, operating revenue coming from down from the things we do, golf here is crucial.”
Barousse said he thinks the new course will be a boon not only for City Park but New Orleans and the surrounding region. He thinks it will attract golfers locally, regionally, nationally and those in the city on business. It could also bring in local, regional and national tournaments as well as possible USGA events.
There has also been mention that the PGA Tour’s annual New Orleans stop, the Zurich Classic, could eventually move to the new course. The tournament is currently held at TPC Louisiana in Avondale and is contracted to be there through 2019.
But Barousse said the primary focus to provide revenue for both the Bayou District Foundation and City Park.
“From our standpoint, we’ve always approached this as we’re looking to build quality golf in the park for the benefit of the park as a revenue generator,” Barousse said. “We believe it will be capable of hosting local, regional, national events. Whether that’s a U.S. Amateur event, a professional event. But we are really not working toward moving the (Zurich) here. That’s really out of our context and not something that plays into the economics of this model.”