The master plan for Lakeview Park hasn't been finalized, but it’s drawing a lot of attention.

Last week a group of golf supporters met at Lakeview Park with concerns the driving range might be eliminated. Lakeview has the only driving range in town.

The driving range, along with the nine-hole course, is used for practice by 11 college, high school and middle school teams.

“We’re at a place where healthy activities for youth should be a bigger priority,” Western Hills boys golf coach Jamey Bennett said last week. “The last two years with COVID and seclusion, this is a healthy outlet for recreation for high school kids, and that should be a pretty big priority.”

On Tuesday, the Franklin County Fiscal Court’s Parks Committee heard a master plan presentation from two representatives of the Hitchcock Design Group and one representative from PROS Consulting.

The driving range is part of the master plan, as is an amphitheater. The big-ticket item is a 160,000 square-foot recreation fieldhouse and convention center.

Proposed work was divided into three phases with a total estimated cost of $45.2 million.

Initial revenue potential is estimated at $1.34 million and doesn’t include conventions, concessions, golf, the driving range or the amphitheater.

County Judge-Executive Huston Wells and squires Michael Mueller and Scotty Tracy, the only voting members of the Parks Committee, were in attendance for the virtual presentation, as was Franklin County Parks Director Charlie Lewis.

If the proposed plan is followed, the driving range would be moved, but it would be updated with lighting and heated bays.

"It’s great to see the golf facility as a whole still there,” Lewis said during the presentation. “I do like the idea of lighting and netting and heated bays for year-round use. It’s the only driving range in town. People come in from other towns to use the facility.”

Carmello Benassi is the girls golf coach for WHHS and Franklin County.

“Any player who doesn’t know the basics at the beginning isn’t going to go out for the team and hold their own out on the golf course,” Benassi said at Lakeview last week.

“I don’t do this for me. Coaching is a way for kids to learn to enjoy the game, but if we don’t have a place to teach that’s not going to happen.”

The Parks Committee plans to meet later this month to discuss what was presented Tuesday.

"It’s all on paper,” Randy Royer with Hitchcock told the committee. “Now’s the time to let us know what changes need to be made.”

The next parks committee meeting hasn’t been scheduled yet, but it will be open to the public and available on YouTube and Facebook.

There will also be a public hearing about the park, possibly in the early part of December.

“I really think people need to see what they’re talking about,” Wells told The State Journal. “It’s a tentative schedule, but that’s what we’re working with. Hopefully all the pieces will fall into place.”

Shannon Creasy with Hitchcock said during the presentation there were stakeholder meetings as well as over 1,200 responses from county residents at an event at Lakeview Park and online and paper surveys.

“One of the things we heard from stakeholder input was the importance of golf at this location being a developmental activity, utilizing the driving range as well as the putting greens and chipping areas as well as the course itself,” Philip Parnin with PROS Consulting said.

“We were a little surprised that the greens fees and driving range were relatively close in revenue generation. That’s a very well-used driving range.”

The plan also includes a universal playground, enlarging the splash pad, improvements at the motor sports arena, upgrades to softball fields, and additional multi-use fields, shelters and restrooms.

No tennis courts were included in the plan, although the possibility of indoor tennis at the recreation fieldhouse was brought up.

The Carter House would remain, as would the barn and exhibit halls, which would be updated. Committee members were told the county fair would not be affected.

Phase 1 of the project would include work on the softball/baseball fields, multi-use fields, amphitheater, motor sports arena and golf course updates at an estimated cost of $9,585,200.

Phase 2 would include the recreation fieldhouse and convention center and the dog park. The estimated cost is $31,644,800.

Phase 3 would encompass the universal playground, splash pad, barn and exhibit hall improvements, additional bathrooms and shelters with the cost estimated at $3,986,600.

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