Chicago Park District meets with 5th Ward residents to discuss golf complex

Heather Gleason, director of Planning and Construction with the Chicago Park District, gives an update on the planning process for the championship level golf course proposed for Jackson Park, which would replace the existing Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses, during a 5th ward meeting at the South Shore Fine Arts Academy, 1415 E. 70th St., Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Marc Monaghan

 

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

Chicago Park District CEO Mike Kelly met with a packed room of 5th Ward residents Tuesday night, Jan. 24, at South Shore Fine Arts Academy, 1415 E. 70th St., to listen and address questions, comments, and concerns regarding the proposed South Shore Golf Complex.

Last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Tiger Woods, a career professional golf player, would oversee the renovations for a new, $30 million golf complex for golf courses at Jackson Park, 6401 S. Richards Dr., and South Shore, 7059 E. South Shore Dr. The courses will be transformed and combined into a single 18-hole championship course.

Though the intent of Tuesday night’s meeting was to respond to issues and comments about the golf complex, there were a few residents who voiced concerns about all the construction activity in and around Jackson Park that are scheduled to take place over the next several years including the Obama Presidential Center (OPC).

The OPC, which will be built right across the street from Hyde Park High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., has several residents concerned about the future placement of Jackson Park’s track and field. Youth groups, local schools and the public currently use the track and field for recreation and practice.

Golfer and South Shore resident Diane Meades questions the viability of the championship level golf course proposed for Jackson Park, which would replace the existing Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses, in a regional market that is “saturated” with championship courses, during a 5th ward meeting at the South Shore Fine Arts Academy, 1415 E. 70th St., Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Marc Monaghan

 

Kelly said the track and field would be moved due to the building of the OPC but that it would be replaced.

“We are working with the Obama Foundation now on the location of the facilities but I guarantee that the track and field will be in Jackson Park,” Kelly said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who hosted and moderated the meeting, said, “There’s no way that we are not going to continue to have those things that we fought so hard to put in the park to remain in the park.”

Many residents were upset when the Chicago Park District Board unanimously agreed on an initial contract of just over $1 million, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, only two days after the park’s first community meeting, Jan. 9.

One attendee asked about the process for the golf complex and if the Chicago Park District will continue to share information about the design and cost of the project with the public before construction begins.

Kelly said despite the board’s decision, a timeline for construction and renovations for the golf complex has not yet been determined. He said he would not break ground until there is enough money raised to fund the project.

“I am not about to turn earth until I know that you guys know what we’re up to and we’ve got a plan in place,” Kelly said.

Kenwood Academy High School golf team member Lincoln Hayes listens as his sister, Kennedy Hayes, a Whitney Young Magnet High School student, asks about the availability of golf courses to high school students and clubs during the construction of the championship level golf course proposed for Jackson Park, which would replace the existing Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses, during a 5th ward meeting at the South Shore Fine Arts Academy, 1415 E. 70th St., Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Marc Monaghan

 

Hairston said there will be accountability measures put in place to ensure transparency.

“I am going to put together an advisory council to work with [The Chicago Parks Golf Alliance] and the Park District,” Hairston said. “We are not just giving them a blank check to do what they want.”

South Shore resident Gail Wilson said she is excited about the golf complex. Wilson is the mother of 12- and 13-year-old girls that are golfers.

She said both girls, who have played on the courses at Jackson Park and South Shore, learned the game before the age of 5 and were once members of the Tiger Woods Junior Golf Team and competed in the Junior World Golf Tournament.

Although she is enthusiastic about the new golf course, Wilson said she was concerned about the cost for junior golfers.

“How [are we] going to maintain it economically for the juniors,” Wilson said.

Others at the meeting also asked if the price they pay now will increase once the golf complex is complete.

“You have my word we will get kids in at a next to nothing price,” Kelly said. “Our goal should be to keep our fees under $50 for residents and somewhere around $20 or $30 for seniors.”

Another attendee asked about renovations for other areas around the golf complex. The Jackson Park Fieldhouse is in need of renovations as well as the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr.

South Shore resident Siv Sjursen asks for “some reassurance that it [the proposed golf course] would remain open to the community,” during a 5th ward meeting at the South Shore Fine Arts Academy (1415 E. 70th St.), Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

Marc Monaghan

 

Kelly added that this spring residents will see investment in the South Shore Cultural Center.

“We were successful in applying and receiving a grant from the state that got hung up for a number of years,” Kelly said. “But there’s about $3.2, $3.8 million that’s going to go into South Shore Cultural Center rehab starting this spring.”

South Shore resident Eric Allen said, who said he in favor of the project, asked whether or not there are plans in place to launch the project this spring.

Before Kelly could answer, a woman asked, “Can we get a grocery store?”

Kelly said his focus is improving the park.

“I’m a parks guy, I want to make improvements to your park,” Kelly said. “I don’t know everything about economic development but I know how to make a park better.”

t.hill@hpherald.com