Work Begins On Interbay Course

A PLAN THAT once pitted gardeners against golfers has managed to win over all parties. P-Patchers had to relocate, but say their new site is even better than the old. -----------------------------------------------------------------

The folks who live around what used to be an old garbage dump at Interbay are pleased their new neighbor will be an executive golf course designed by legendary golf pro Jack Nicklaus.

After years of planning and counter-planning, wrangling and fighting, the Interbay Family Golf Center is poised to become a reality.

Building permits are approved, and contractors are ready to break ground on the nine-hole executive-length golf course, clubhouse and driving range.

The $5.3 million project has the blessing of residents of the nearby communities of Queen Anne and Magnolia.

Plans have even managed to pass muster with the uprooted P-Patchers who had to transplant their gardens from one end of the site to the other.

The city has an agreement with the Nicklaus-affiliated Family Golf Centers of Melville, N.Y., to develop the golf complex, and the developer has hired a Seattle firm, Charter Construction, as general contractor.

Crews are on site this week doing preliminary layout work - setting survey stakes for the clubhouse and 80-station driving range.

Grading will start next week, says John Mallon, golf manager for the Seattle Parks Department, which oversees the city's public golf courses.

Family Golf Centers will operate the complex and pay the city at least $400,000 a year for 25 years, and more if gross and net operating margins swell, Mallon said.

Plans had long been in the making for a golf complex on the old landfill that was closed and capped during the mid-1950s, then used for parking during the 1962 Seattle World's Fair before being converted to a 9-hole golf course and driving range. That facility was torn down nearly five years ago as the city tried to plan for a new golf course.

In the process, though, golfers pushed for a north-facing driving range, and community gardeners rallied against being uprooted from their established P-Patch.

But all's well that ends well, says Ray Schutte, Interbay P-Patch site coordinator.

The P-Patch is now being transplanted from the northeast corner of the site to the southeast corner.

Although its size is about the same - just over an acre, gardeners like the raised garden beds and pathways. They say the soil and drainage are better. There's even a food-bank garden and more storage space.

"We have to garden a little bit closer to the street," Schutte said. "But I think it's a better designed area, and everybody's coming up really pleased."

The Interbay facility will be the first in this state for Family Golf Centers, which operates 46 commercial driving ranges and short courses elsewhere in the nation.

Interbay will join the Parks Department's golf courses at Jackson Park in North Seattle, Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill, in West Seattle, and at Green Lake.

Mallon said the plan is to have the driving range and clubhouse open late this summer, and the golf course ready for the public next spring.