Preview of New Skylinks Golf Course
(Sept. 26, 2004) -- About 100 invited guests, mainly golf aficionados, city staff and City Hall commissioners, turned out for a "Hard Hat Preview Party" in advance of the unveiling of the newly transformed Skylinks @ Long Beach Golf Course.
Skylinks, centered at 4800 E. Wardlow Rd. abutting LB Airport between Lakewood Blvd. and Clark Ave., has undergone a $6 million makeover...and will become LB's high-end golf course when it re-opens after its one year upgrade at the end of October. We bring LBReport.com readers a preview.
[The Sept. 24 event took place near dusk (when the setting sun makes color photographs appear overly red) and in the interest of accuracy we used a computer program to adjust the color to compensate (purists will notice the long shadows). The new course is, in fact, already quite green.]
"The Skylinks course has forever been changed," said designer Cal Olson (left). In a written description, Mr. Olson said "the 'old' course was 'dead level' flat, overpopulated with palm trees, lacking in character and overall features...The 'new' Skylinks changes the character substantially..."
The new Skylinks is undulating...and includes larger bent grass greens, all new Bermuda grass tees and fairways, four new lakes with fountains, 80 new bunkers, 700 new trees and more than 1,000 new shrubs, said a written release from American Golf, the firm that manages LB's five publicly owned golf courses (Skylinks, El Dorado, Heartwell Park, Rec Park 18 and 9) under a City Hall lease.
In his written description of the new Skylinks, course designer Olson said in part:
"The course fairways were reconstructed to provide interest in various holes, elevating trees were appropriate and contoured in general for aesthetic purposes and visibility of features. Four ponds were added to create variety and to introduce the pleasant visual and audio of natural looking ponds which also serve to challenge the golfer and remind the golfer to use course management."
"Color has been added at various tee boxes, at restrooms and at the ponds as well as select areas to provide additional aesthetics. The course now has complete cart paths which will allow golfers to play in marginal weather and help keep the course in good condition. Bunkering on this course is directive, visual and it "makes a statement." The bunkers are generally large and will have definite impacts on the golfers aligning their shots. Bunkers want to be avoided where possible."
"The greens are very generous in size and designed for the ability to accept the designed shot. The greens are contoured to provide interest and challenge depending on pin placements..."
A City Hall release notes there'll also be a new short game facility including a chipping green and practice bunker, as well as an enhanced driving range featuring grass and mats plus new elevated targets. A new electronic message center sign will also be installed in mid-October.
"We are thrilled to debut this extraordinary new championship golf course, which will rival some of Southern California’s most acclaimed daily fee golf properties," said Phil Hester, Director of LB Parks, Recreation & Marine in a written release. "The golfing community of Long Beach should be extremely proud of this new facility, which will be the new flagship course for our residents and golfing public," he added.
Course designer Olson worked with Wadsworth Golf Construction to transform the old course into a new layout that will play 600 yards longer (6,973 yards from the championship tees).
The new par-72 course features includes four new lakes with fountains, 80 new bunkers, 700 new trees and more than 1,000 new shrubs. A waterfall has also been added between the 1st and 10th tees, which will serve as a backdrop for the property’s new banquet facilities when they open later this year. Summer/Murphy & Associates assisted Mr. Olson in designing Skylinks’ new landscaping.
Work is being completed on an enhanced 7,500 square-foot clubhouse with a new interior design.
It will include an upgraded pro shop and an enhanced restaurant (open for breakfast and lunch with a new bar). The release says there'll also be a 2,700 square-foot banquet room with seating for up to 200 featuring a new 500 square-foot outside patio area with views of the waterfall and course. The pro shop will open on October 29...and the restaurant in late fall and the banquet facilities by January 1, 2005. CC Construction collaborated with architect D. Mike Hamner on the project.
The improvements were funded using revenue from the sale of Bonds, floated with the voted approval of the City Council. Although LB taxpayers are ultimately responsible via the General Fund, city management expressed confidence that a combination of increased green fee revenue (higher fees for the upgraded course) plus increased patronage will cover the bond payments. (If the green fee revenue falls short, LB's General Fund or some other source could presumably have to make up the difference.)
Vice Mayor and 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell, in whose district Skylinks is, donned one of the plastic ornamental "hard hats" given to attendees. She urged people to come and enjoy the new course when it opens at the end of October.
LB Golf Commissioner Bob Peeters and wife Lee attended. "It's spectacular," said Commissioner Peeters of the upgraded Skylinks course...but promised to keep a watchful eye on city management's forthcoming decision regarding increases in golf fees.
Commissioner Peeters chairs the Golf Commission's subcommittee that has recommended a smaller increase than proposed by American Golf.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, Vice Mayor Kell said in July that she has urged city management to try to find a way to give LB residents a break on the fee hikes. A city management decision is forthcoming.
LB Parks & Recreation Commissioner Bea Antenore and 5th Council district aide Tim Patton.
Tom Shippey (left), Manager of LB Parks, Rec & Marine's Maintenance Bureau with Christine Shippey, Assistant City Manager.
LB's Director of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, Ron Arias.
LB Airport Manager Chris Kunze. When we mentioned that Skylinks was effectively a legally required buffer zone for the Airport, Mr. Kunze said that many years ago, the FAA helped LB Airport acquire the Skylinks land with a grant (covering roughly 90% of the cost).
Mr. Kunze indicated that part of the newly improved Skylinks clubhouse may also be used from time to time for Airport related meetings and the like.
Ron Salk, chair of LB's Airport Advisory Commission.
The event included hors d'oerves, beer, wine and soft drinks...and souvenir plastic "hard hats" were handed out. (In the interest of full disclosure, the plastic hats appeared to be in ample supply and we asked for and received three of them for our kids who enjoy "Bob the Builder.")
American Golf, the largest operator of golf facilities in the world, will continue to maintain the Skylinks course, and has committed to spend $1.1 million to upgrade LB's four other publicly owned courses.
LB's Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Marine operates 95 parks, two tennis centers, the country's busiest municipal golf system and the nation's largest municipally operated marina system with 3,800 boat slips and eleven miles of beaches. LB's Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Marine was named a Gold Medal award winner by the National Recreation and Parks Association for its outstanding management practices.
As first reported by LBReport.com, an October 1 opening date for the new Skylinks has been put off until the end of October.
In a written release, LB Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Marine said, "The course, originally scheduled to open on October 1, 2004, has been delayed due to unanticipated construction issues involving the parking lot, parking lot lighting and a portion of the clubhouse. The completion of these amenities will ensure a quality experience for all Skylinks at Long Beach patrons."
Barring unforeseen circumstances, on October 29 there'll be a Dedication Ceremony and Charity Golf Tournament to benefit the LB Junior Golf Program; the event is open to the public. Regular operations are scheduled to begin October 30.
At the Sept. 24 preview, a hot air balloon was standing by to let people view the full scope of the project, but alas, a stiff breeze and setting sun conspired to prevent it.
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