Revolution Park face-lift touches golf, more

A renovated public golf course and a $10 million sports and learning academy soon could make a day on the fairway at Revolution Park even better.

Those amenities can help meet more urgent needs for children ages 5 to 18, who will get access there to nine holes and to education programs.

Sure, The First Tee of Charlotte has helped its protégés win academic scholarships. But other fundamental benefits come first: better grades and better behavior at home and school.

“What we're producing in this program is young leaders,” said Executive Director Vincent King.

A partnership between King's agency and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation is behind this concerted effort to provide facilities and programs in which youths can learn life skills as well as sports.

The First Tee is more than a service provider in this partnership. It also has agreed to pay for some of the planned improvements at the golf course, at Barringer Drive and Remount Road.

The course, operated by Ratcliffe Golf Services, opened in 1930 and, in 1957, became the first in the city to desegregate.

Park and Recreation plans to close the 22-acre course Nov. 1 and reopen in 2010 with a different layout. Irwin Creek Greenway is to be extended through the course.

The First Tee, an 11-year-old initiative of the World Golf Foundation, plans to expand the existing clubhouse and open its local headquarters there around June 2009.

“For us to have a home, a place where we can lay our hats, we're so very glad that has come to fruition,” King said.

The First Tee has operated in Charlotte for eight years and has served about 1,500 children.

Its programs teach nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, judgment, perseverance, courtesy, confidence, respect and responsibility.

Programs also include outreach to youths who otherwise might not have an opportunity to learn golf.

The news brought cheers from West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition President Dorothy Waddy.

She estimates the coalition's 18 neighborhoods are home to some 3,800 children in first through 12th grades.

“We've got to make sure that our programs are open and welcoming to them,” Waddy said. “That way, we don't have to worry about them.”

Construction started in August on the 30,000-square-foot Revolution Sports and Learning Academy, at a site that once housed a swimming pool.

The learning academy, scheduled to open in late 2009, will house a new clubhouse for the golf course and space for athletic programs from Park and Recreation and other partners.

Agencies that plan programs there include Charlotte's Police Athletic League, Charlotte Flights Track & Field Club and Charlotte Boxing Academy.

The Carolina Panthers built an artificial turf field at the park in 2007 for football, soccer and lacrosse.

Recreation amenities added and planned at Revolution Park address a dearth in surrounding communities, said the Rev. Marvin Cuffee, who was president of the Revolution Park Neighborhood Association 1997 to 2007.

“I hope and pray that this center will provide a great service to the community,” he said.