Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: At Asheville Municipal Golf Course, I’m sure you’ve seen the great improvements at the Muni. However, I would put the work in the range of a few hundred thousand (dollars) perhaps, but not millions. Is the new management finished upgrading and improving? They seem to have come to a stop on the renovations. Surely they haven’t spent all the money allotted. Is anyone overseeing the expenses and payments the city is making for these improvements? What are management’s plans from here?
My answer: In my assessment, the biggest problem with the renovations is that my swing is still horrible. Not sure any amount of money can fix that.
Real answer: I did play at Muni a few weeks ago, and the improvements made to the course are noticeable, and were much needed. But it’s not in the millions yet, according to Chris Corl, director of Community & Regional Entertainment Facilities for the City of Asheville.
“Your reader is correct in that we have not yet spent millions, but we have spent hundreds of thousands,” Corl said June 12 via email. “To date we’ve pulled $604,242.88 from the roughly $2.9 Million project.”
Corl’s department oversees the golf-focused portion of the project, while the city’s Capital Projects department runs point on the stormwater improvements, “with significant input from both us and the operator, Commonwealth Golf Partners II-Asheville.”
“Additionally I’ve been bringing next steps improvement plans to the Friends of Asheville Muni, a recently formed 501c3 made up of community volunteers for their thoughts and opinions which have helped steer the direction of some of the work thus far,” Corl said.
I know some criticize the city’s spending on the golf course when it faces so many other pressing needs, but it’s worth noting that the course played a key role in integration in Asheville, and it has hosted the African-American driven Skyview Golf Tournament for decades. It truly is a gem of a course, and it gives regular Joes, and yes, tourists, an opportunity to play a course built in the 1920s that was designed by the renowned Donald Ross.
So, what work has been done out there?
“To date we have completely rebuilt and resodded seven-plus tee box complexes, refurbished all 18 greens, rebuilt 10 bunkers, installed original design mounding on two holes, repaired most all of the issues with the cart paths and completed cosmetic renovations to the cubhouse interior and restrooms,” Corl said. “Additionally, we’ve commissioned and received a revitalization master plan completed by golf architect Kris Spence who specializes in restoring Donald Ross Courses.”
One of the main highlights so far is the 16th hole, which has been redone from the tees to the green. It really needed it, as the fairway was mostly dirt, and the green was about one-quarter bald.
Workers created two new tee boxes, resodded and seeded the fairway, resodded the green, did extensive tree work, repaired the cart path and restored all the bunkers to the original design.
“We are not finished with improvements, but we are, however, on a ‘pause,’” Corl said. “With the famed Skyview Tournament right around the corner in early July, we didn’t want to risk any areas of the course being unavailable when the pros are in town.”
No new significant work has occurred since about mid-May. Corl said it can take three to seven weeks before new sod is usable for play. In short, they want the course to be in the best possible shape for the tournament, and players to note the obvious progress.
“We plan to continue tee box and some bunker work in July and August after the Skyview Tournament,” Corl said. “Additionally, the stormwater improvement project is currently in the design phase with a target for construction repair to the stormwater system on hole numbers one, two, 10 and 11 in October or November this fall.”
After that project wraps, the rest of the budget will be used for the remaining “golf-focused improvements,” Corl added.
If you go out to play, be aware that the rates have gone up, particularly for visitors or those who live outside of Buncombe County.
Question: Can you address the lack of cell phone towers at the Asheville Regional Airport? There are no towers in the line of sight of the airport, and you can’t get a cell signal at AVL. I happened to be at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport recently, and just inside the grounds, by the statue of a jet turbine, is a huge cell tower with probably 30 cell phone transmitter things on it. If Charlotte can have one without it interfering with airport operations, why can’t Asheville?
My answer: I suspect it’s only a matter of time before Asheville’s next protest materializes, complete with raucous protesters carrying signs that say, “We demand more transmitter things!”
Real answer: The cell phone dead spots around this town are crazy, and the airport folks are aware of the issues there — and making some improvements. Spokesperson Tina Kinsey said the airport continually advocates for additional coverage in the terminal.
“We have a contract service provider that works with the cellular carriers to do business on airport property,” Kinsey said via email. “At this time, cell carriers have not added service at the airport. However, we are installing a cellular Distributed Antennae System as part of our new terminal project.”
That will improve cellular coverage “within the terminal building and a few other buildings across the campus,” Kinsey said.
The terminal project, according to the airport’s website, will include expansion from seven to 12 gates, additional aircraft parking space, an expanded and modernized ticket lobby, TSA screening, baggage claim and concessions space. It will also include a centralized power plant.
The airport will break ground on the new terminal in August. In January, work started on a new $55-million air traffic control tower at the airport, a replacement of the existing 62-year-old structure.
After a pandemic travel lull, airport traffic has been booming.
The airport issued a press release in May stating that “for the first time in history Asheville Regional Airport served more than 400,000 passengers in the year’s first quarter — a 29% increase over the previous year’s record number of 312,000.
“Additionally, each month’s passenger numbers for January, February and March were the highest in history, showing a strengthening of air service and utilization in the winter months at AVL.”
The airport served more than 1.8 million passengers in 2022.
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-337-0941.