For the first time in five years, the Kananaskis Country Golf Course is open to the public. Restoration architect Gary Browning hit the ceremonial tee shot that re-opened the course to Albertans for the first time since the 2013 flood that devastated the course.
“I know how much it means to Albertans,” Browning said. “It means so much to the golfing public — and not just the golfers, but the economy in the valley, the economy in Alberta — to have this course back and thriving again is amazing.”
Golfer Sean Messing made the drive from Calgary Thursday morning to play in the first public foursome on the restored Mount Lorette course.
“Last night it was hard to fall asleep we were so excited to get back out here,” Messing said.
Golf returning to the course was never a sure thing after the 2013 flood destroyed it.
The former PC government approved the controversial rebuild, but when the Alberta NDP took power in 2015, they signed off on the restoration.
It cost Albertans $18 million to restore the course and another $5 million for flood mitigation to fortify waterways for a total of $23 million.
The province is expecting to recoup $19 million of that from the Federal Disaster Recovery Program.
The banks of the Evan Thomas waterway that were busted through in 2013 are now 20 feet higher and much wider and should help prevent future flooding.
Going forward, almost $500,000 a year from golf course revenue will be donated to William Watson Lodge for persons with disabilities located in Peter Lougheed Park.
“Tourism continues to play a pivitol role in our province’s economy,” said Ricardo Miranda, minister of Culture and Tourism. “Having the golf course reopen offers travellers another reason to visit Alberta.”
Stoney Nakoda First Nation elders held a blessing ceremony on the first tee.
The nearby Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino is one of many local businesses that lost revenue when the course was closed and staff are excited the course is back open again.
“Everyday you’re looking at an extra 200 or 300 cars driving up here. They’re going in and then going out,” said Lino Toppazzini, rooms division manager at the resort.” A little bit of breakfast business, little bit of gambling, little dinner, business afterwards. It’s huge for us.”
While the Mount Lorette course is now open, Mount Kidd won’t be ready until August.