After a rough beginning that included negotiations, public protests and alarmed golfers and Municipal Council members, Provo’s East Bay Golf Course and the proposed Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine are now on a win-win course.
The Noorda College is set to be constructed on 21 acres on the northwestern portion of the East Bay Golf Course.
The college will be managed by Wasatch Education, which also operates the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. Rocky Mountain also has plans to eventually relocate to the golf course property.
“We are so excited about the relationship we’ve developed with Provo city and Parks and Recreation. We’ve enjoyed how we’ve partnered. I can’t think of a better neighbor than the golf course,” said Dr. Richard P. Nielsen, founding president and CEO of Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions and the founding president and CEO of the Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine.
In order for the school to locate at the golf course, a three-hole redesign was needed, and fast. The medical school must begin construction or lose its accreditation.
Nielsen said the first focus has been to get the Board of Trustees organized and running, and that has happened.
“We are working very, very hard on our self-study for the COCA (Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation) accreditation process,” Nielsen said. “We are working for candidacy status which leads to pre-accreditation.”
Nielsen said at that point, which will be in 2020, student recruitment can begin.
At the same time the school will be working with engineers, architects and builders looking at site development and architectural renderings for the medical education campus.
The campus will be built in two phases with the Noorda school and student center being built in the first phase. The student center will be share with students from the Rocky Mountain University which will relocate to the site. Construction will begin in 2022 and is expected to be complete and open in 2024 as part of the medical education complex.
In the meantime, reconfiguration of the golf course is starting before the end of the month.
Duininck Golf out of Minnesota will be the contractors on site with Kevin Atkinson, designing architect from Denver who is already engaged in the project.
The school’s developers will fund relocation cost of three golf holes to the southeastern portion of the course. The holes will be playable this coming spring, right as construction on the medical school begins.
According to Scott Henderson, director of Parks and Recreation, the new holes will be started sometime next week.
The 18-hole course will be open throughout the entire construction process, Henderson said.
With Duininck on board, a company with high reputation for building numerous U.S. golf courses, East Bay will be getting some value added upgrades, Henderson said.
Those upgrades include lighting for several areas like the driving range, on the executive course, at the family style “starting new” golf course. It also includes other needed improvements around golf facilities.
The best part according to Brett Watson, project coordinator, and Henderson is the whole course will have a new look and complete continuity.
“East Bay opened in 1986 and has been chopped up two or three times since,” Watson said. “It has never maintained continuity.”
“It’s a difficult situation with a rare beneficial endgame,” Watson said.
Both sides are excited and happy about how the once problem has become a win-win situation, according to both men.
“This is going to be an awesome success story,” Henderson said. “This has evolved into a dynamic partnership.”
School owners have already had the sod planted and growing to replace the holes being torn up, according to Watson.
“By Spring the golf course should be up and running,” Watson said. “The school should be open by fall of 2021.”
The medical school will have walking trails and will keep the golf course water hazards that will be on either side of the main campus. Walking bridges will go over the water hazards, and bike trails and campus-based bicycles will help students get around the campus. There will also be a daycare and a dog park on site.
With the golf course and medical school being the southern entry to Provo, the upgrade and look is expected to improve the approach to the city.
East Bay golf course used to be the Provo city landfill located right up against Interstate 15.
“Wouldn’t you rather have a golf course next to I-15 rather than a landfill?” Henderson said.
Henderson also said the golf course is watered by secondary water that has been treated by the wastewater treatment plant and course grass acts as another filter as the water flows to Utah Lake.
He said the best thing about the golf course for the city is it is self-sustaining and does not receive subsidies from the city coffers.
“This will be the premier public golf course in Utah County,” Watson said.
Provo, Timpview and Orem High Schools use the golf course as well as Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University golf teams.
“We are developing and promoting the sport for future players,” Henderson said.
Henderson also said the success of Provo’s triple-play recreation pass is also anticipated to do very well on the newly redesigned course. Triple-play pass holders get a variety of things half-off at East Bay Golf course, but also at the Rec Center and Peaks Ice Arena.
Cost for golfing at East Bay is about $46 with a golf cart on the weekends, not a bad rate according to Watson.