Golf Courses: DC's Next Big Sports Project?
For far too long, the National Park Service has managed Washington's three public golf courses with a mixture of neglect and disdain. The historic Langston course in Northeast near RFK Stadium has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that it was shut down for at least two periods that stretched on for years. And the courses in Rock Creek and East Potomac parks aren't anybody's idea of a world-class golf venues.
Now, with the District having rediscovered sports as an engine of economic development, the city and the feds are talking about a deal in which control of the three courses would shift from the Park Service, which has neither the staffing nor the interest in making the courses remotely what they ought to be, to the city government, which has dreams of sprucing up the facilities and turning them into attractions for tourists and residents that might even make the District some money.
The Park Service wouldn't mind making the poorly maintained golf courses someone else's headache. In the past couple of decades, the feds tried farming the courses out to private operators, but that hasn't made the courses much more appealing to players. Most recently, a contractor ruined the grass at the Hains Point course, mistakenly using a herbicide instead of a fertilizer to treat the turf.
Now, says D.C. council member Jack Evans, a plan is moving through Congress to hand the courses over to the District, which would in turn assign the task of fixing the courses to the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission--the city's new golden agency, having kept the baseball stadium project on time and on budget up to this point.
"Imagine a championship 18-hole golf course at Hains Point," Evans says. The plan would be to seek bids from the nation's most important golf course developers, hire a private firm to remake the courses, work out some price arrangement that protects lower-income players' access to the courses, and try to bring in higher-end players and tournaments to create tax revenues for the city.
Naturally, city officials hope to lure Tiger Woods to extend his Washington connection beyond the National tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda to perhaps attaching a Woods Learning Center to the Langston course, which has a long and fascinating history as part of a majority-black neighborhood.
A pipe dream for now, of course, but the successes of the Abe Pollin Center downtown and the Nationals ballpark in Southeast have emboldened District officials to look for other sports projects. It's hard to imagine Washington becoming a golf center of any significance, but strange things do have a way of happening in this city.
By Marc Fisher |
July 31, 2007; 9:55 AM ET
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