As Devou Park Gets New Clubhouse, Angry Ex-Commissioner Vows to "Get Even"
The ribbon-cutting at the new Devou Park Clubhouse was met with great fanfare and applause for those involved.
And also with profanity-laced tirades from a former Covington city commissioner.
On Wednesday, the City of Covington joined the Devou Park Advisory Committee, Devou Properties, Inc., and Devou Property Management Company to open the brand new Devou Golf & Event Center.
The $6.5 million project offers a modern replacement to its outdated predecessor, which was torn down. The celebration featured WCPO news anchor and Covington resident Katherine Nero as emcee, and speeches from Devou general manager David Peru, Drees Pavilion executive director Scott Mescher, DPAC chair Bob Rothert, Devou Properties chair Varbara Drees, and Covington Mayor Joe Meyer.
“The golden age of Devou Park is now," Meyer said. "This facility is an extraordinary complement to the park and Dress Pavilion. We extend the city’s grateful appreciation to all who have made this possible.”
At the ceremony, guests had the opportunity to tour the new facility and view its amenities, including the private event rental space, a pro shop for golfers, and new café with outdoor seating.
The city worked closely with Performance Construction, Hub + Weber Architects, Devou Park managers, and the Devou Park Advisory Committee, Covington's public works director Rick Davis said.
“With the many challenges of this large scale project, our team has successfully completed the project and hopes this serves our community for years to come,” Davis said.
The first floor of the facility has 12,000 square feet, and it also has a basement of the same size.
“I believe the new Devou Golf and Events Center is a magnificent addition to Devou Park and the City of Covington," said DPAC Board Member Greg Engelman. "It will serve not just the golf patrons, but it will also provide a great spot for other visitors to the park to stop and enjoy a snack, a sandwich or a cold drink.
“It will also provide another venue in the park for parties, receptions or other celebrations where the guests will be treated to the same great hospitality that they have enjoyed at the Drees Pavilion for the past 13 years.”
The event facility is expected to complement Drees Pavilion, offering a lower-cost alternative to those who wish to host events in the park but may not want to shell out the cost of the posh pavilion.
“We are excited to be able to offer our guests the same Devou Park experience at the park’s newest feature, as we do at the Drees Pavilion,” said Drees Pavilion Executive Director Scott Mescher.
But not everyone is thrilled about the project - and one vocal critic took to social media to voice his opposition and to make threats.
Steve Frank, the former city commissioner who voted against the project at every turn, was angered to learn that his name would appear on a city plaque placed at the clubhouse. In voicing his opposition while on the city commission, he said that he would not want his name on any city plaque. "The son's (sic) of bitches," Frank wrote on Facebook. "I don't just get mad... I get even. You're screwed now." When pressed for answers from commenters on his post, Frank wrote, "If you don't know why I'd be mad at you, you've got nothing to worry about. If you have an idea, yeah, I'm going to rock your world."
Longtime local civic leader Bill Goetz replied, "WTH?", an acronym for, What the hell? Frank replied, "You heard me bitch." (Editor's note: An earlier version of this story placed a comma between the words "me" and "bitch", which did not appear in Frank's original post.)
Frank later deleted that thread, but his threatening comments on a post by former city commissioner Chuck Eilerman remained on Thursday.
Eilerman was a supporter of the project and disagreed with Frank - as did the Drees and city staff - about how the project would affect the city financially. In calling the project a waste of money, Frank wrote, "Plus, the bastards on Commission couldn't be bothered to afford free swimming for our poorest children to have the funds to pay for rich golfers from Park Hills and Fort Wright to have a club house. The pig bastards...and all I said to them was to leave my fucking name off their fucking memorial plaque. But No...the bastards couldn't not decide to piss me off. Fuck them all..."
Frank first voiced criticism of a new clubhouse when the plans first emerged in 2013, and in a Park Hills newsletter, he told that city's residents that he believed he had stopped the project. As it continued to progress, and as its estimated cost continued to rise, his opposition only grew. Former mayor Sherry Carran wrote in an op-ed in 2015 that the project would not use any city dollars.
Ultimately, Frank, who left office last year and was recently appointed by the current mayor and city commission to serve on the Covington Economic Development Authority board, vowed to remove his name from the plaque with a chisel if necessary.
Meanwhile, the golf course and event center staff applauded the opening. The #10 golf tee was relocated, the #1 hole's fairway was upgraded, and an elevated parking lot built to substantially reduce storm water runoff into Miller's Pond in Park Hills were all included, as were improved sidewalks to improve connectivity throughout the park.
“The staff at Devou is very proud to have a beautiful facility to accommodate our guests," said Devou Property Management Company General Manager David Peru. "We strive to provide a great golf experience for our golfers, but cannot stress enough that this facility is much more than just a golf clubhouse.
“The new Devou Golf & Event Center is a welcome center or gathering place for Devou Park, Covington and all of Northern Kentucky. If you have no interest in playing golf, please still consider stopping by for a drink and an appetizer in our café or on our patio overlooking the golf course or allow us the opportunity to host your next banquet or event.”
Originally constructed in 1934, the Devou Clubhouse began to deteriorate and was deemed inadequate in later years. In 2013, the City reached out to the community for public input and began developing renderings to construct a new building. In 2015, the City broke ground on the project and began construction.
The Devou Golf & Event Center's normal operating hours are Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, click here.
Written by Michael Monks with comments from officials provided through a city-issued news release, and photos by the City of Covington and Chuck Eilerman (used with permission)