EVERETT — As the group of dignitaries milling about on the 14th-hole tee box were just about to settle in for the ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open Legion Memorial Golf Course’s four renovated holes, the sound of a ball plopping into the newly-enlarged pond next to the adjoining green on No. 13 could be gently heard in the background.
It was an appropriate soundtrack for the ceremony, considering water was the whole purpose of the redesign in the first place.
Legion Memorial is back up to full speed with the integration of the four new holes, and not only has it enhanced the course, it’s helped solve flooding issues in the surrounding neighborhood, too.
“The project is an example of a win-win for all,” Everett City Council president Scott Bader said during the ceremony, which took place last Wednesday morning. “The city benefits, the golfers benefit, the surrounding neighborhood benefits, we’re all grateful to have that win-win.”
The renovation was part of the City of Everett’s stormwater detention project, which was designed to help ease flooding issues in the northwest neighborhood of Everett. Legion Memorial’s new and enlarged ponds will help temporarily store rainwater in the case of major storms. Meanwhile the course, which dates back to 1934, has undergone a number of changes, including the removal of three holes in favor of the four new ones, the flipping of the nines and a permanent change of par from 72 to 71.
“When you’re tasked with a project like this, to me it’s about honoring that golf course and protecting it,” said golf course architect Todd Schoeder, who designed the new holes. “Protecting it from a strategic standpoint, its character, the aesthetics, its playability, to make sure we don’t change the character or history of the golf course. It was a big project that took a lot of collaboration between Public Works, Utilities and the Legion staff, so it was a labor of love. But we really wanted to do what’s right for the golf course. We wanted to make a more strategically interesting, fun golf experience.”
Work on the project began on March 5, 2018 and it was originally scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2018, with the course being rerouted and played as a par 68 while the renovations took place. However, weather conditions forced the project to be delayed a year.
“We had a rough start last spring with wet weather, and the contractor basically had to pull off the site for a few months to let the ground dry out before we could proceed,” Dave Voigt, senior engineer with Everett Public Works, said. “That led to a late seeding date for some of the holes. Our best-case scenario was to open last fall, but we just couldn’t do it based on the weather, mainly.”
The original budget called for the project to cost $3.7 million. Voigt said it ended up costing about $4 million. It was paid for via Everett’s utility fees.
While the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place last Wednesday, the holes were first opened to the public on Aug. 16. Not all golfers are happy with the changes, as a few expressed disappointment at the removal of the old No. 3, a par 5 that included a 90-degree dog leg right. However Rex Fullerton, the general manager of Everett’s two public courses, Legion Memorial and Walter Hall, said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“At the end of the first two weeks we were open, I could count on one hand the number of people who thought it stayed the same or liked it better the way it was before,” Fullerton said. “Overwhelmingly we’ve been getting comments about how aesthetically pleasing the course is, how much fun it is to play these holes, and the players who have been here for years are delighted.”
Indeed, the players who came thorough Wednesday morning had good things to say about the changes.
“We thought it was like Christmas morning,” Port Gardner Ladies Golf Club member Brook Ostrom said about playing the new holes.
“It was a long wait, but it was worth it,” fellow club member Carolyn Thomas added. “These holes are gorgeous, they’ve really added a lot to the course.”
The new holes, because of the increased water hazards, have also made the course more challenging.
“You have to be more careful, it is a little more difficult,” said Marc Kaye of Bellevue, who’s been playing Legion for 20 years. “But they made it so you can hit around it, you don’t have to hit over every bit of water, which is not the easiest thing to do for golfers who aren’t great. That’s a big design thing they did, and kudos to them because they made it friendly.”
During the ceremony there were hints at the possibility of similar projects at Legion Memorial in the future, specifically in dealing with stormwater at the adjacent Everett Community College. However, no specifics have been determined yet.