CHICAGO (CBS) — With the Chicago Park District planning to break ground this spring on an ambitious plan to turn the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses into a championship-caliber lakefront golf course designed by Tiger Woods, local residents have voiced concerns about what the project means for the community.
A Jackson Park Advisory Council meeting on Monday allowed residents, business owners and golfers to come together to question Park District officials about the plan.
Golfers who frequent the public courses at Jackson Park and South Shore said they’re worried greens fees would go up to $50 per round or more. At Jackson Park, 18 holes costs $20 to $30 on weekdays and $28 to $33 on weekends; at South Shore, nine holes costs $9 to $18 on weekdays and $15 to $20 on weekends.
Park District CEO and General Superintendent Mike Kelly acknowledged greens fees would go up when the new course opens, but he said he’s not sure how much. Local residents would get discounts on greens fees.
Kelly said he thinks the existing golf courses are a great choice for Tiger Woods to create a PGA course that would remain open to the public.
“Some of the most spectacular views, some of the most iconic views of our city, and they’re 100 years old. Jackson Park is the first public golf course west of the Alleghenies, so why not start here?” he said.
Others agreed, saying they can’t wait to see what a PGA golf course would do for South Side youth.
“Give the kids an opportunity to learn about golf. If they hear Tiger Woods, they know about Tiger Woods or whatever, we might get more kids coming in,” one woman said.
According to project managers, Woods chose Chicago so he could introduce more neighborhood kids to golf and give them the opportunity to earn scholarships to college.
Kelly said he hopes to begin work on the $30-million project in May, if the recently-formed Chicago Parks Golf Alliance can raise the necessary funds. According to published reports, the goal is to have 80 percent of the project funded through private donations, with the rest coming from the park district.
While Kelly said work would begin on the project this spring, he said no changes would be made at Jackson Park right away. However, it would be the future site of an 18-hole PGA course designed by Woods. South Shore likely would become a short course or par-3 course.
The superintendent said he thinks the partnership with Woods is good for Chicago.
“I did have the pleasure of meeting Tiger Woods, and he grew up on a public golf course the same way I did,” he said. “Obviously, his game took off, mine didn’t; but he’s really excited about it, and it’s all about kids, and I think Tiger’s going to do a heck of a job for us.”
The course would be integrated with the Obama Presidential Library, which also will be built in Jackson Park. Park district officials said they are committed to replacing any parkland used for the library.
Kelly said the park district identified Jackson Park’s needs 20 years ago, and now they’re excited to see those plans come to fruition.
“Now we get to finally maybe put some action into that framework plan. You’re going to see investment from start to finish, top to bottom in Jackson Park. The golf course is just one small piece of the investments that are coming,” he said.
Officials have said the new course should open in 2020.