2005: FEMA takes over New Orleans course
By Tony Leodora
A former PGA Tour venue in New Orleans that was scheduled to undergo renovation will be used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for at least two years as a staging ground for rebuilding efforts in the wake of two hurricanes that caused massive flooding in the city.
Lakewood Golf Club, which has been owned by the New Orleans Firefighters Pension Fund since 2003, will be used by the agency for two years with an option for a third year, according to William Bud Carrouche, president of the ownership group. Initially, government officials wanted to use Lakewood, which was unaffected by hurricane-related flooding, for five years, Carrouche said.
“We thought that was too long and settled on two years with a one-year option,” Carrouche said.
The agency sought Lakewood, which is in a flood-free section of New Orleans known as Algiers, because it offered 150 dry acres near downtown. FEMA’s plan, Carrouche said, was to place 1,300 trailers on the property to house officials involved with the city’s reconstruction.
“The other thing we asked is that the trailers should be reserved to house police, firefighters, EMS workers and key government workers,” Carrouche said.
To compensate the course for shutting down, the government will make rental payments and build some of the infrastructure according to the renovation project’s master plan, Carrouche said. The total cost to compensate the course could be as much as $10 million, he said.
According to Carrouche, the New Orleans Firefighters Pension Fund paid $6 million in May 2003 for Lakewood, a Robert Harris design that opened in 1962 as private Lakewood Country Club. The course was scheduled to close Sept. 15 to begin a 14-month, $100 million renovation project. The close date was moved up two weeks because of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall Aug. 29 south of New Orleans, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. New Orleans, much of which lies beneath sea level, suffered massive flooding after Katrina when three breaches of the levee system that surrounds the city occurred.
The plan for Lakewood included a complete renovation of the course by Florida-based architect Ron Garl and construction of a 250-room hotel, retail stores, 350 condominiums and a retirement village.
Carrouche says the course will be rebuilt.
“My intention right now is still to build the entire project and see it through to completion,” he said. “It just might take a few more years.”
Lakewood was the site of New Orleans’ PGA Tour event, now called the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, from 1963 through 1988.
– Tony Leodora is a freelance writer from Philadelphia