By Joseph Rios

The Denverite June 26, 2016

The city of Denver is pushing hard for controversial renovations to Denver’s City Park Golf Course. This week the team who will be responsible for the redesign and construction of the course presented to City Council members their vision of what the golf course could become.

Contracts with Parsons transportation group, Flatiron Construction Inc. and Saunders Construction for design and construction of the City Park Golf Course improvement project were all advanced Tuesday by Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee members, despite two outstanding lawsuits related to the project.

Meet the team responsible for the City Park Golf Course:

The City Park Golf Course redesign team’s lineup includes the city and county of Denver, Saunders Construction with Aspen Corporation, clubhouse architect Johnson Nathan Strohe and golf course architect and designer iConGolf Studio. While iConGolf Studio designs the course it will receive advice from champion golfer Hale Irwin.

Irwin is known for leaving a legacy on the PGA Tour. He won three U.S. Open titles and the 1979 World Cup Championship. Todd Schoeder, chief design officer of iConGolf Studio, expressed his excitement to collaborate with Irwin.

“He is going to be very engaged throughout the process. He will be engaged in the layout, the strategy of the golf course, the feature construction, what it is going to look like, how it is going to play,” Schoeder said.

“I bring a vision of what (the average) player, I think, enjoys,” Irwin said. “Whether that be a public player, private player, it doesn’t matter. You still have to grab a golf club and hit the golf ball.”

iCon Golf Studio has worked with Irwin’s Hale Irwin Golf Design before. The two companies have completed and renovated golf courses in Washington, Maryland and other places.

What will City Park Golf Course look like?

Denver has four things it wants to accomplish with a redesign of City Park Golf Course: to build a stormwater detention system that blends and integrates into the design of the course, to remain sensitive to historical character of the property, to serve the entire community and surrounding neighborhood and to build a high quality Parkland style golf course for all skill levels.

The most important new feature — and the most controversial — is the stormwater detention.

“We know that while on the surface this is a drainage project, it is much more than that. It is about preserving the legacy of City Park and making sure that that legacy continues on after the project is done. When we’re done, no one will know it’s a drainage project,” said Leslie Fangman from Saunders Construction.

Denver officials said City Park Golf Course will include facilities for the First Tee youth golf program, extra course yardage, an 18-hole Parkland style course with par 71 and a new, relocated club house.

The clubhouse will feature rooms for community meetings, and the city wants to make it a community asset. It will also come with a distinct view of the skyline.

“There is no backdrop like that anywhere, and our challenge will be to make that golf course equally beautiful,” Irwin said.

This, of course, has seen backlash from people in Denver.

CDOT is moving forward with plans to expand and sink I-70, a project that has been some 14 years in the making. However, the highway will be in the way of water that is trying to reach the South Platte River. Therefore, the city and CDOT have to do something about the water.

Denver says the flood control project meets longstanding city needs, and it just made sense to do a project that would also meet CDOT’s needs. One lawsuit, set to go to trial in August, alleges detention is an improper use of parkland under the city charter, while a more recent federal lawsuit claims that the flood control project did not get proper consideration in the environmental impact statement for the highway project.

Councilman Rafael Espinoza has been vocal about his concerns about the project.

“This is a colossal misuse of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money that could be addressing a whole bunch of stormwater needs citywide,” Espinoza said in an interview. “While I think there is a nice and beautiful and more playable way of doing what we’re doing today, yes, I don’t object to the concept.”

That is, using the golf course for detention might be OK — just not like this.

“I do object to the way we’re using city funds and creating projects that aren’t necessary and building projects that aren’t necessary for this city, but are necessary for the interstate and confusing the two,” Espinoza said.

There are also questions as to whether the City Park Golf Course renovations will even see the light of day with multiple lawsuits against the project. Espinoza questioned how much the design process is costing the city for a project that could be halted by the court.

Attorneys for the city said that they are confident the project will be approved by the court.

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