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Belmont Golf Course renovations in motion in Lakeside

Site work started in early May as part of a $5 million project to revive Henrico County’s landmark public golf course in Lakeside.

RVAHub Staff

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Site work started in early May as part of a $5 million project to revive Henrico County’s landmark public golf course in Lakeside.

The Board of Supervisors approved a 20-year lease in December, allowing The First Tee of Greater Richmond to upgrade and operate the facility. The agreement ensures Belmont will remain affordable and accessible to the community while freeing the county from operating losses due to years of declining play.

“We’re just thrilled to see the project move forward,” said Neil Luther, director of Henrico’s Division of Recreation and Parks. “The last thing we wanted to see was to have the lease take effect and the property sit fallow for months and months on end because of the COVID-19 shutdown.

“With work underway, it’s evident that the project is moving forward and will be done this time next year.”

Belmont is being restored in the tradition of architect A.W. Tillinghast, who designed the course – then-known as Hermitage Country Club – in 1917. It hosted the 1949 PGA Championship, which was won by Virginian Sam Snead.

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Under its new design, Belmont will feature 12 championship holes created by restoring existing holes 7 through 18. Holes 5 through 6 will be converted into a 35,000-square-foot putting course plus a six-hole, par-3 “short course.” Each hole will range from 80 to 170 yards and be based on Tillinghast holes throughout the country.

Existing holes 1 through 4 will be turned into a driving range, wedge range and short-game practice area. The project also includes an upgraded pro shop, improved concessions and space for youth programs.

“The course, when it comes back, is going to be brand new in terms of quality,” Luther said.

Brent Schneider, CEO of The First Tee of Greater Richmond, envisions Belmont being an inclusive place “where the history of American golf meets the future of American golf.” The nonprofit is a chapter of The First Tee, a national organization that promotes youth participation in golf and values, such as honesty and integrity.

“Our vision is to strengthen the character of our community, and we feel like, with this property, we’re going to be able to do that,” Schneider said.

“Whether you’ve been playing all your life or you’re brand new and want to come try it out, there’s an entry point at this facility for everyone,” he added.

The First Tee of Greater Richmond expects to invest $4.25 million in Belmont, with Henrico contributing $750,000 previously set aside for course improvements.

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Established in 1998, The First Tee of Greater Richmond operates the Tattersall Youth Development Center at The First Tee Chesterfield Golf Course in Chesterfield County and the Elson Redmond Memorial Driving Range in Richmond.

The group enlisted MacCurrach Golf and Love Golf Design as the contractor and architect, respectively, for Belmont. The first phase of work is focusing on restoring the championship holes, with renovated greens, improved bunkers and better drainage and irrigation.

Scot Sherman, lead architect with Love Golf Design, said the underground systems will be “light years beyond what was here before.”

“You see the turf. You see the bunkers, but you don’t often see what’s underneath,” he said.

With its improvements, Belmont will be designed to challenge experienced golfers and nurture the next generation of players. In addition to the community, the facilities will be available to Henrico’s high school golf teams, the Henrico Police Athletic League and other community groups.

“This is obviously a historic golf course, but there wasn’t a lot of variety here,” said Mark Love, a principal with Love Golf Design. “There wasn’t an opportunity to hit balls on the driving range and take lessons. All of the programing that First Tee does involves all aspects of the game. I think the kids have an opportunity to learn in a nonintimidating environment and work their way up to the bigger golf course, and I think that’s a great opportunity.”

The First Tee of Greater Richmond detailed its plans and answered questions from the community in a presentation delivered in March via YouTube due to the coronavirus.

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Downtown

Virginia lawmakers pass legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday

Juneteenth has officially become a state holiday after lawmakers unanimously approved legislation during the Virginia General Assembly special session.

Capital News Service

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By Sam Fowler

Juneteenth has officially become a state holiday after lawmakers unanimously approved legislation during the Virginia General Assembly special session.

Juneteenth marks the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas, which was the last state to abolish slavery. The companion bills were introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Richmond. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the legislation on Oct. 13.

“Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States,” Northam said during a press conference held that day. “It’s time we elevate this, not just a celebration by and for some Virginia, but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”

Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, introduced a bill in the legislative session earlier this year to recognize Juneteenth, but the proposal didn’t advance.

Northam proposed making Juneteenth a state holiday in June during a press conference that included musician and Virginia-native Pharrell Williams. Northam signed an executive order that gave executive branch employees and state colleges the day off. Some Virginia localities, such as Richmond and several places in Hampton Roads, also observed the holiday this year.

“I think it is overdue that the Commonwealth formally honor and celebrate the emancipation and end of slavery,” Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, a co-patron of the bill, said in an email. “It was a step towards fulfilling the promise of equality contained in our founding documents.”

The Elegba Folklore Society, a Richmond-based organization focused on promoting African culture, history and arts, is one of the groups that has been celebrating the holiday for decades. The celebration usually is a three-day weekend event that looks at the history of Juneteenth. A torch-lit walk down the Trail of Enslaved Africans in Richmond is also held, said Janine Bell, the society’s president and artistic director.

“We take time to just say thank you to our ancestors, their contributions, their forfeitures, their trials and tribulations,” Bell said. “We invite people to Richmond’s African burial ground so that we can go there and pay homage from a perspective of African spirituality.”

Juneteenth should not be used as another holiday to look for bargains in stores, Bell said. It should be a time for reflection about liberty, as well as for celebration and family strengthening.

“It’s a time for optimism and joy,” Bell said.

The Elegba Folklore Society broadcasted its Juneteenth event online this year due to the coronavirus. Although there were still around 7,000 views, Bell said that it is usually much larger and has international influence.

Cries for police reform and social justice continue to increase, Bell said. More attention is being drawn to the racial disparities across America. With this, people have been changing their priorities concerning issues such as discrimination.

“This was a step towards equity,” Bell said about the bill. “A symbolic step, but a step nonetheless.”

State workers will be off during Juneteenth. If the job requires individuals to come in to work, then they will be compensated with overtime or extra pay, said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, a patron for the bill.

The General Assembly wrapped up the agenda last week for the special session that began Aug. 18. Northam called the session to update the state budget and to address criminal and social justice reform and issues related to COVID-19.

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Downtown

Stoney administration proposes surplus funds to address three public health needs in city

The Stoney administration, working alongside Richmond City Health District, has proposed $500,000 of special-purpose reserves from the projected FY2020 budget surplus go to funding three distinct public health efforts in the city.

RVAHub Staff

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The Stoney administration, working alongside Richmond City Health District, has proposed $500,000 of special-purpose reserves from the projected FY2020 budget surplus go to funding three distinct public health efforts in the city.

The mayor is proposing the following:

  1. $200,000, Resource Center Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Pilot, partnering with Richmond City Health District, Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. The yearlong pilot will fund a full-time clinician, a licensed substance use disorder counselor, and a peer recovery specialist to work out of RCHD’s resource centers and provide necessary services to residents in their communities.
  2. $150,000, Richmond Doula Fund, partnering with Richmond City Health District. The Doula Fund will reimburse doulas for services and fund doula training with the goal of decreasing racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.
  3. $150,000, Gun Violence Prevention Framework, partnering with Richmond City Health District. These funds will support the development of a hybrid gun violence prevention model based on national best practices and community input. With this funding, the model will be finalized in early 2021.

“The pandemic has highlighted a troubling network of health disparities that threaten the quality of life for many Richmonders,” said the mayor. “With these three proposed allocations, Richmond City Council has the opportunity to support our effort to address these disparities, building a healthier city for all.”

The Richmond City Council will discuss the potential allocations at the informal meeting on Monday, October 12. The council will have the opportunity to reach a consensus on using surplus funds to support these three innovative and detailed public health efforts.

Mayor Stoney indicated on September 15, 2020, that he would propose special-purpose reserves be allocated in part to address health disparities in the city. All three of the above projects aim to allocate more resources to historically underserved communities.

For more details on the three efforts this allocation would fund, click here.

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Spanberger, Freitas race outspends presidential campaign in Virginia 

A closely contested congressional race has spent almost $1.7 million more on political advertisements in Virginia than the presidential campaign.

Capital News Service

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By Brandon Shillingford

A closely contested congressional race has spent almost $1.7 million more on political advertisements in Virginia than the presidential campaign.

More than $11 million has been spent on ads for the Congressional 7th District race. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, the incumbent Democrat, faces challenger Nick Freitas, a Republican state delegate. The district includes Culpeper, Chesterfield, Henrico and Nottoway counties.

Meanwhile, more than $9 million has been spent in Virginia this year on ads for the presidential election between Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. The data posted on the Virginia Public Access Project’s website includes money spent on broadcast TV, cable, radio, and internet ads.

This is Spanberger’s first re-election campaign, after defeating two-term Republican incumbent Dave Brat in 2018.

“The 7th District of Virginia is one of the marquee congressional elections in the country and is drawing very significant amounts of money,” said Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Fredericksburg-based University of Mary Washington Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “Virginia may not be getting the attention it received four or eight years ago, but the 7th District is one of three highly competitive congressional districts in Virginia.”

The Democrats have outspent more Republican candidates in both races. More than $6.6 million has been invested in ads that are either pro-Spanberger or anti-Freitas, while there has been $4.4 million invested in ads that promote Freitas or criticize Spanberger.

Biden and groups supporting him have spent more than $6 million on ads compared to nearly $3 million spent to promote Trump.

Farnsworth sees this as less of an anomaly but more of a continuing strategy in presidential campaigns.

“The nature of the way the state has changed over these last several election cycles, new donations to presidential campaigns would be better off being directed to states that are more competitive, like Pennsylvania or Wisconsin or Ohio,” he said. “Polls have shown Virginia wouldn’t be the best place to spend your presidential campaign dollars in 2020.”

Other closely contested congressional races are the 2nd District in Hampton Roads and the 5th District, which stretches from Fauquier County in Northern Virginia to Danville in Southern Virginia. Democrats have also outspent their opponents in these races.

“All three districts are winnable for the Democrats and Republicans, and this results in a very large amount of donations and large sums of money spent on advertisements,” Farnsworth said.

More than $8 million has been spent on ads in the 2nd Congressional District, while more than $4 million has been spent in the race for the 5th Congressional District.

The 5th District has also been in the headlines lately due to Republicans declining to re-nominate incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman after he officiated a same-sex wedding in 2019. Republicans instead nominated Bob Good who won the primary and is running against Democrat Cameron Webb.

However, the 7th District is unique because of the different segments of the electorate that live within it, making it an invaluable asset to candidates, Farnsworth said.

“You have suburban voters in the Richmond area and suburban voters in the Fredericksburg area, then a number of more rural jurisdictions in between,” he said.

Farnsworth pointed out that the 7th District was originally drawn to help Republicans get elected, but has recently struggled to do so due to the lack of support from suburban voters during the Trump administration. Over $4 million was spent on broadcast ads to elect Spanberger in 2018, with spending for Brat’s campaign trailing behind at just over $3 million.

“One of the effects of the Trump presidency has been increasingly aggressive donations on the part of Democrats,” he said. “The 7th District is a highly competitive district, that’s why both Democrats and Republicans are investing very large sums of money in that contest.”

The most money in the 7th District race has been invested in broadcast ads, followed by cable, radio and Facebook, respectively, according to VPAP.

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