New Devou Clubhouse Could Be Events Center, Too

A 1980 master plan for Devou Park in Covington described its clubhouse as being in poor condition. That was more than thirty years ago and the golf course's clubhouse is targeted in yet another master plan for the park.

This time, it appears the clubhouse would come down in favor of a new structure with more amenities, including a mid-scale events center.

"It's an old clubhouse and needs a facelift," said Barbara Drees-Jones, president of the Devou Properties Board, Inc. 

The Covington City Commission entertained a brief presentation Tuesday night by Drees-Jones, Devou Park advisory committee member Peter Nerone, and city staffer Natalie Gardner. The commission unanimously approved the authorization of city staff to issue a request for proposals from qualified firms to provide design and engineering services for the proposed events center.

Nearly two years ago the city authorized a feasibility study on the current clubhouse that was conducted by CDS Associates and Hotel Leisure and Advisors that determined a new structure would be more suitable than renovations. 

Gardner laid out ideas that could be included in the new clubhouse, a proposed 10,000-12,000 square feet structure: a two-hundred seat banquet area, a new pro shop for the golf course, golf cart storage, a full kitchen and snack bar, a park welcome center, bike rentals, and a place for Devou Park Rangers to be based. 

Those plans come with a hefty price tag, one Gardner estimates to be between $3 and $4 million.

The Drees Pavillion, an upscale events center based in the park generates revenue that is shared in part with the city for maintenance of Devou Park. Over the past four years, those proceeds have been more than $2.5 million. The Pavillion, Drees-Jones said, has committed $500,000 to the development of the new clubhouse.

"We do very much believe in the use of thiis new facility. It's a gateway to the park and an important structure," Drees-Jones said.

But where would the rest of the funds come from? Gardner hopes that a wealthy benefactor would come forward with $500,000 or $1 million, with naming rights possibly attached. The rest could be generated through a municipal bond issue.

The current clubhouse is managed by Billy Casper Golf which has the city contract to operate Devou Park Golf Course. With the added element of booking events, city commissioner Steve Frank asked who would be in charge of managing it then. "We have not tied up all the details about that," Gardner said. One possibility would be a joint management operation with Billy Casper Golf maintaining the sport portions and the Drees Pavillion handling the events aspect.

"We could combine the expertise of the Drees Pavillion and the golf company," said City Manager Larry Klein. "There will need to be a single person in charge at the end of the day."

2,600 square feet would be available for rental, Garnder said, adding that there is an available market for mid-scale wedding parties that may not be suitable for the upscale Drees Pavillion. "The banquet facilities would offer an economical option and compliment Drees Pavillion," she said.

Revenue generated through the new clubhouse would pay for the financing and the maintenance. 

Since the golf course also borders Park Hills, residents of that city are expected to be involved in the public discussion process. "Residents of Park Hills were invited to master plan meetings," said Mayor Sherry Carran. "I think that outreach to Park Hills will continue."

The clubhouse would continue a trend in recent years for the city to focus on one key area of Devou Park to be improved upon using the funds generated by the Drees Pavillion. Some recent highlights include the shelter house, new concessions stand/ restrooms, the bandshell, and the area around the Behringer-Crawford Museum, also located in Devou Park.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Devou Park Golf Course clubhouse/RCN