Construction will start in January to improve the driving range at the city of Kent’s Riverbend Golf Course.
The City Council on Dec. 10 awarded a $1.4 million contract to Buckley-based Mike McClung Construction Co., to begin phase one of the project. Contracts for phase two and three of the work will be awarded at a later date.
“The driving range is being completed in three consecutive phases, beginning in January 2020 and hopefully re-opening by July 2020,” said City Parks Director Julie Parascondola in an email.
Phase one will include removal of the outdated artificial turf and installation of natural grass turf. Crews will regrade the range area to improve drainage and install irrigation. Perimeter poles and fencing on the eastern portion of the range will be replaced and relocated to allow for expansion of the building in the next phase. The miniature golf course also will be removed.
“One of the major elements to bring in significant revenue to the golf course is the expansion of the driving range,” Parascondola said to the council. “It is also the catalyst to transition the golf course into the positive black. …We are super excited to finally be here advancing the driving range project. The last time the driving range was updated and remodeled was 25 years ago, so it’s in desperate need of renovation.”
The city will pay for the work with proceeds from the $10.5 million sale of the former par 3 golf course to a developer who is building the Marquee on Meeker apartments and retail space across from Riverbend’s 18-hole golf course.
The city is using $6 million of the land sale for improvements at Riverbend and $4 million to pay off debt at the complex. Riverbend lost $65,572 in 2018 after averaging losses of about $300,000 per year. The closure of the par 3 course in April 2018 helped reduce costs in 2018. Profit or losses for Riverbend in 2019 are not yet available.
The second phase will include building renovations and the addition of 14 new driving stalls to connect to the existing 32 stations, which will be upgraded. The third and final phase is improvements to the parking lot.
Parascondola said natural turf will be installed on the range because artificial turf has a lifespan of only 12 to 15 years. She added that using artificial turf would require the course to have replacement funds in its capital improvement program in the future, which isn’t feasible for Riverbend.
“Golfers can see the impacts of what an artificial grass field looks like now without capital re-investment capacity, which isn’t visually appealing in any way,” she said. “A natural grass field allows us to manage the driving range as we would any other naturally grown element on the course, with no expiration date. We no longer have to worry about not having enough capital funding to replace expired artificial grass and our customers will now have a more pleasing visual experience when practicing their golf swing.”
Portions of the driving range will close during phase one, Parascondola said. Some stalls may remain open until the second phase when the existing stalls will be upgraded. It remains to be determined if the range will be open during the parking lot project. She said parks staff will keep the public informed when specific closure and opening dates are determined.