, Port Arthur, Texas


April 22, 2014

West on golf: Spring weather helping The Palms shape up

PORT ARTHUR — Spring’s belated arrival has brought sighs of relief to all involved in the hard-hit Southeast Texas golf business, with nobody more pleased over the recent stretch of warm, dry weather than the folks trying to get The Palms at Pleasure Island up and running.

“When I left here last weekend, I was excited over what has been accomplished in the past few weeks, and the overall look of the golf course,” said Port Arthur Renaissance Group managing general partner Kevin Johnson. “We’ve reached the point where there is now more excitement than anxiety.”

Though Johnson is evasive on a target date for the grand re-opening, primarily because he’s become so wary of Mother Nature’s whims, he says mid July seems realistic. The last major step is sprigging the greens. That will happen as soon as the irrigation system is fully operational.

“We’re about 85 percent complete on the irrigation system,” he advised. “We had 11 sprinkler heads to be replaced and three major leaks to be fixed. The contractor is looking at the second week in May to start on the greens. They say the greens should be ready six weeks from the time they start, with light play acceptable on them after eight weeks.

“Provided, of course, there aren’t any major weather setbacks.”

Anyone who has checked out The Palms recently can see the place is definitely starting to look like a golf course again. The fairways have definition, thanks to almost no-stop mowing from tee to green in recent weeks. Well underway is work to shape up the bunkers.

“We’d done a lot up to a certain point, then things kind of went dormant because of all the bad weather,” Johnson said. “Now we’re on a roll. Things look great. It’s no surprise to us,  but it probably is to a lot of folks who maybe heard some things that weren’t accurate.”

Johnson says the best news for golfers is that the cost of the massive makeover from Hurricane Ike’s destruction isn’t going to be nearly as much as had been projected. Because expenses were kept under control, he says the fees won’t have to be set so high that it keeps players away.

“One of the important things for us is the final cost not being nearly as prohibitive as we’d been led to believe it would be. In the beginning, we got bids from $4.5 to $5 million for the total job. We were told $1.2 million just for irrigation and from $190,000 clear up to $880,000 to redo the bunkers. It looks like the tab on the irrigation will be $22,000 and the cost on redoing bunkers will fall between $32,000 and $40,000.

“Including what we’re paying for the greens, we’re projecting around $880,000 to get the course playable, not counting labor and additional investments. For instance, we invested $220,000 in equipment. We also went all out to turn the clubhouse into a showpiece, and that’s already paying off.”

Indeed, the clubhouse, with its stunning views, is being booked on a regular basis for weddings, showers, Easter functions, graduation parties and political campaign meetings. Even the Harris County Seniors Association held a meeting there.”

“We’ve got 15 to 18 bookings between now and the end of May,” Johnson said. “A lot of people who had never taken the time to come and see this place have made the trip out here. They are so amazed at what they see. It’s pretty special.

“What’s dramatic is the pictures of what everything looked like out when we first started and how the golf course looks now. Unless you have lived it, like we have, you can’t imagine how much time and work has been put in. That’s why it’s exciting to see where we are and  to know it’s almost complete.”

No thanks, of course, to Mother Nature.

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