The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Hannah Van Ree

Golf course upgrades discussed at open forum


Hannah Van Ree

Staples Golf Resource Group design overseer and project manager, Andy Staples (pictured in black with his hand raised), and his design team met with Sidney community members and city officials last night at the Hillside Grill to discuss details of the design planning and execution of the golf course irrigation project.

Avid golfers and concerned citizens gathered at the Hillside Grill last night to ask questions and discuss the golf course’s upcoming irrigation improvement project with designers from Staples Golf.

In attendance on behalf of Staples Golf Resource Group to answer concerns were project managers Andy Staples and Doug Long, along with irrigation designer Don Mahaffey.

Also in attendance was Scott Bustos, a manager from Project One who helped select and hire the design team, and City of Sidney City Manager Gary Person representing the local government’s efforts.

Staples Golf recently won the bid to design the city’s project and was approved by the City of Sidney City Council to begin planning at the council’s last meeting.

The company was formed in 2002 and its team has designed, consulted and maintained well over 125 projects throughout the world - many of them in the United States.

“Staples Golf is one of the leaders in our golf industry on energy and water efficiency,” said Staples. “So part of what our business model is is to promote water conservation and energy efficiency in the industry. We have a team that is going to put in a state-of-the-art, sustainable irrigation system that capitalizes on all the latest technology for those things.”

The design firm had previously been chosen to create the 2012 Master Plan for the Hillside Golf Course, which took them approximately two-and-a-half years to complete.

“The 2012 Master Plan took into account all the issues of the golf course and identified things that needed to be improved,” said Staples. “We made recommendations in the Master Plan to improve the irrigation in general as a whole. The city took the irrigation component of our Master Plan and decided to act on it. Think of the Master Plan as a road map to a final fully improved golf course.”

Staples said that the plan took so long because the team considered citizen feedback to truly understand what the city as a whole wanted accomplished through the project, and to decide on how much money to put into the efforts.

The team has just started the designing process for the project and has been given a budget of $1.2 million. The amount was recently approved by the Sidney City Council at their last meeting, and voters approved funding for the irrigation project during their last general election.

Water Problems

During the 2012 Master Plan study Staples and his team found the current irrigation system to be inadequate.

“The (current) pumping system is completely inadequate, with poor pressure,” said Staples. “The big pipes that move the water are improperly installed and they seem to be breaking all the time. You want a really uniform head layout and spacing but the spacing is all over. Sometimes it’s 45-50 feet and sometimes it’s 95 feet. So when you see some big huge areas of brown and dead grass it’s because of the spacing.

“The pumping station isn’t even designed properly to take on the type of system out in the field.”

Some of the irrigation is original pipes from when the nine-hole grass golf course was renovated in the 1960s, according to city officials.

The team said that the design process will most likely take from now until the first couple weeks in June, and that the bidding process for the construction team will commence in July.

“We will hopefully start construction sometime in August and by September 1 we will be under full construction,” said Staples.

Staples said that the project is expected to take approximately 13-14 weeks to complete.

The team said that although they wish that they could complete the construction during the exact weeks that golfers preferred and weather permitted this year, not obliging with the constructor’s preferred timeline could jack the price up.

“We think we are going to get the best price by closing large chunks of the golf course off at a time, so that might be a minimum to two or three holes at a time and it might be an upward of nine holes at a time,” said Staples. “We’re going to give the golf course the best system possible but we want to give the contractors the chance to give us the best price possible and give them enough room to work.”

The price increase that could result in choosing a different timeline than the construction firm wishes could mean fewer features added to the course.

“With the budget that we are working off of those opportunities are pretty limited, but what we hope is to try and figure out how to allocate some money for maybe re-grassing all the fairways to a drought-tolerant new bluegrass or making allocations in the irrigation system incase they in the future want to add a bunker or some tees or resurface the tees,” said the project manager.

“We’re looking at locations for new sand and grass bunkers and newly renovated tees but we don’t expect to get into a lot of that during this project because the budget is just not there.”

Staples said that his team took the Hillside Golf Course project because he saw what golf course officials were trying to do and the programs they had in place, and saw a course with tremendous growth potential.

“We really are golf people and love what we do, and I think small city courses are the future of where the game of golf is going to grow,” said Staples. “Chuck has a great kids program. They have 180 kids here and so this type of facility fits well in what kind of project we want to improve, and hopefully this will bring people in the game to play more golf.”

One of the first questions citizens asked the team was when the golf course would be closed for the renovation and said ideally that the team shouldn’t close it during prime golf season.

They also asked whether the pumping system would be better designed to combat circulation and elevation problems this time around and if the areas that weren’t getting watered would be replenished by the new system.

“The biggest problem is areas don’t get watered,” said one golfer.

“We plan on starting late enough that water and golf course usage will be on the decline,” said Staples. “Winter will dictate it, but there’s a good chance it will be pushed into the spring but our hope is to get a guy in and get ‘er done. The worst scenario is to finish when it’s freezing. You only get one chance to do it right.”

The construction team will be working on the course six days a week, and will keep the old water lines running when they can to keep the grass manageable and incase the weather dictates the need for extra water.

“Old pipes will be abandoned, but we’re not going to shut the whole thing down,” said project members. “Part of the way that the project will be written in our specs is that the contractors are responsible for making sure that the rest of the golf course can still have water.”

The team members will also be keeping the old frost-free lines in place, but may have to cut through a couple during the construction process.

“We also discussed trying to keep the Octoberfest Tournament open with 18 holes, so we are going to try to figure out how to keep that open,” said Staples.

Playing Nine

The citizens in attendance said that they were fine with playing on just nine holes of the golf course at a time while the other nine were being renovated.

“I think the public needs to understand that this is a one time deal and needs to be done,” said one citizen.

“We use to play 18 holes by playing the same nine twice, and we can do that again,” said another.

Members of the public also were in agreement that if getting the project done right and as soon-as-possible meant closing nine holes the second week in August that they were fine with that.

“Our discussion at this point is that we will always have nine holes open, and August 26 is our target date for construction when kids go back to school and families spend less time on the course,” said Staples.

Regarding the new water pressure and system dealing with elevation, Staples and his team members said that golfers would see an improvement.

“The head nozzle is an upsize of about an inch-and-a-half so there is going to be much more water and much more pressure. So the water coming out of the head is going to fight the wind better already no matter what,” said Staples. “The heads we are putting in are completely adjustable, but then again no irrigation head does well in the wind.

“We are examining all options to best efficiently move water on the golf course,” he continued. “One of those options is to possibly come directly from the well, other options are to build a new lake and have a new pump.”

“Water is very critical in this area,” mentioned one community member.

The team said that installing a new pond was a remote possibility because it would be hard to overcome budget-wise, but they are pondering the idea of a direct feed well and small additional well with minimal pumping.

The smaller well could be used in higher elevation areas, explained team members.

There is currently one well in place to feed the irrigation to the golf course.

Citizens said an additional well would be rather unfeasible due to current water control factors.

Hannah Van Ree

The South Platte Natural Resources District would have final say in the matter regarding the installation of an additional well.

Staples said that the team plans on going in front of the Sidney City Council at the end of May to present their ideas and plans to move forward to ask for council members permission and final sign-off for the project.

The team members and City of Sidney officials said that they will keep the public informed of progress every step of the way.

“We are going to create a Facebook page when we start the project so people can see pictures of the plans and there will also be information provided at the golf course,” said Staples.

Staples said that the design team will also be at the golf course all day today if anyone has additional questions for them.


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