Decision nears on $16 million upgrade of Oak Meadows Golf Preserve

Updated 8/13/2014 7:25 PM
  • DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners are considering whether to move ahead with a roughly $16 million improvement project at Oak Meadows Golf Preserve in Addison.

    DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners are considering whether to move ahead with a roughly $16 million improvement project at Oak Meadows Golf Preserve in Addison. Daily Herald file photo

After years of planning, DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners must to decide whether they want to proceed with a roughly $16 million project to improve Oak Meadows Golf Preserve in Addison.

But in order for construction to begin next summer, commissioners need to commit funding for the project. That decision is expected to be made next week.

Several commissioners want more financial details.

"I am looking for more of a financial profile ... so we can all be on the same understanding of where the money is coming from (and) when," Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli said. "What is the flow of the money so that we don't end up pinching our other projects?"

The district's plan calls for increased stormwater storage, new wetlands and improving the overall environmental quality of the 288-acre property.

Oak Meadows, which was built in the 1920s, includes an 18-hole course, as well as a bordering 9-hole course called Maple Meadows East 9.

However, Oak Meadows has experienced increased flooding since 2007. It also lost its clubhouse in a 2009 fire.

While golfers can't use Oak Meadows when it's flooded, the property along Salt Creek must be allowed to flood during heavy rains because that's why the district acquired it in the first place.

"We realized Oak Meadows was at a crossroads," said Ed Stevenson, the district's golf operations director. "From a golf standpoint, we were losing customers because we had flood interruptions in all those years."

From a preserve standpoint, Stevenson said, Oak Meadows needs improvement because too much of the site is being used for golf.

"It's hard to be a preserve and a golf course at the same time," Stevenson said. "What if we can do both better? What if we can actually make the preserve a better preserve and hold more stormwater while also providing a better golf experience?"

As part of the district's plan, the footprint for golf would be reduced. Maple Meadows East 9 would be eliminated so an additional 33 acres of floodwater storage and wetlands can be created.

The 18-hole course also would be redesigned to have improved flood resistance, multiple tee options and expanded practice areas, officials said.

"The remaining 18-hole golf product is going to be at an elevation that it will minimally, if ever, be impacted by flooding," Stevenson said. "So in addition to updating it from a playability standpoint and making it more desirable, it also will not see the types of interruptions that are currently impacting revenue."

One way the district could raise the approximately $16 million for the project is by using existing accumulated interest earnings. It then would repay itself.

Officials estimate the district could recoup a third of the project's cost through grants and other third-party sources. Future profits from three golf courses also could be used to repay the district.

In addition to Oak Meadows, the forest preserve owns and operates Green Meadows Golf Club in Westmont and Maple Meadows Golf Club in Wood Dale.

Forest preserve officials said the golfing operation is projected to lose money during the two years that Oak Meadows and Maple Meadows East 9 are closed for the construction. But the courses are expected to make a profit of more than $960,000 during 2017-18.

Stevenson said the reason is because of the improvements to Oak Meadows.

"It will be one of the best public courses in the state," Stevenson said. "It's going to have more sets of tees and more options. So it's going to be more fun for the newer golfer and more challenging to the experienced golfer."

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