It took a few years to get past the permitting hazards, but the reconstruction of Palo Alto's municipal golf course in the Baylands now appears to be proceeding smoothly toward a November completion.
Approved in 2011, the project calls for transforming the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course into a links-style course with native grasses, a new irrigation system and enhanced practice areas. The project was mired for years in permitting limbo while the Regional Water Quality Control Board was reviewing the impacts of both the golf course reconstruction and the nearby flood-control project that will use some of the golf course space.
Construction finally began in July and, so far at least, work on the $12.5-million project remains on budget and on schedule, according to a report from the Community Services Department. The contractor, Wadsworth Golf Construction Company, had completed the excavation and grading, installed a new pump station for potable and recycled water and expanded the driving range, which reopened in April after a brief closure.
This month, workers were adding sand to the golf greens, forming bunkers and building paths for golf carts, according to the report. They were also building a new practice area along Embarcadero Road, including an area for youth development.
Despite the rainy winter, city staff work remains "close to schedule," with an estimated reopening set for November.
While the construction is moving ahead, city staff is also shopping around for service contracts for the new facility. Existing contracts with BrightView Golf (which provides maintenance services), Brad Lozares (who manages the golf course and the pro shop) and R&T Restaurant (which has the food-and-beverage contract for Bay Cafe) are all set to expire in April 2018. This summer, staff will be reviewing requests for proposals from various service providers, with the goal of bringing a new contract to the City Council by the end of the year.
Community Services Department staff is also exploring the possibility of terminating the existing contracts early, thus allowing a new providers to begin managing the course as soon as it reopens. This, according to the staff report, would allow the awardee to "develop and deliver marketing and promotion campaigns leading up to and throughout the re-opening period, and to provide consistent service rather than turning over operations only a few months after re-opening."
Even as the reconstruction proceeds apace, city officials are already looking ahead to future improvements that are not part of the project. The city's new Parks, Trails, Natural Open Space and Recreation Plan notes that the renovation does not include improvements to the pro shop, the clubhouse or the parking lot.
"Each of these facilities needs improvements to maintain the viability of the overall golf course facility," the plan states. "Improvements would include a full remodel of the existing clubhouse and pro shop building with an expansion of a larger multi-purpose room that could be used for community and private events."
While these improvements are considered relatively non-urgent (the plan places a higher priority on new dog parks and new restrooms at local parks), Mayor Greg Scharff noted earlier this week, during the council's discussion of the new park plan, that it might be worthwhile to pursue the clubhouse improvements sooner rather than later. Delaying them, he said, could be "pennywise but pound foolish."
"If people don't go play rounds there, it wouldn't be successful and we will have spent money we shouldn't have spent. … I just want the golf course to be successful and I'm concerned about that," Scharff said.