Council clears way for two CSU athletic expansion projects

Columbus State University will soon spread its athletic presence off campus with a new golf practice facility and a partnership in a plan to expand Cooper Creek Tennis Center, thanks to two unanimous votes of Columbus Council tonight.

Councilors voted to approve a zoning change that would allow the university to build a golf practice facility on 11 acres between University Avenue (across the street from the campus) and Primrose Road.

Councilors also approved entering into an agreement with the university and the Columbus Regional Tennis Association to add 22 tennis courts to the Cooper Creek facility and to build a new clubhouse that will include locker room facilities for the school’s tennis teams.

Cooper Creek is already has the largest soft-court municipal tennis facility in the country, with 30 courts. The project would add 10 more soft courts and 12 hard courts.

The Cooper Creek project will cost about $5.4 million, most of which will be paid by the university and CORTA. The city will pay about $1.5 million from 2008 Local Option Sales Tax funds.

In exchange for its participation, the university tennis teams will have propriety use of the hard courts and will have use of the locker room facilities and office space.

When the project was first proposed, CSU head men’s tennis coach Evan Isaacs called it “an exciting venture” that will help both the men’s and women’s programs attract top athletes.

“It would give us one of the best, if not the best Division II tennis facility in the country, and I also believe it will rival many Division I facilities as well,” he said.

Most of the expansion at the park will take place on a large L-shaped lot that CORTA owns adjacent to the park and on a strip of city-owned land next to it. Once the improvements were made, CORTA would retain ownership of the new clubhouse, but would deed the rest over to the city.

The city will continue to manage the facility out of the existing clubhouse. The new clubhouse will be used for CSU locker rooms and offices and for CORTA’s offices.

The golf practice facility plan includes a driving range, short game area, putting area, clubhouse and offices. The project, which is expected to cost about $1.75. Former Masters winner and Columbus resident Larry Mize has said he would help in planning and designing the facility.

School officials say use of the facility will be limited to daylight hours and no floodlights will be installed.

Attorney George Mize, who represents Foundation Properties, Inc., which owns the property, told councilors that the school held a public hearing and no serious opposition was heard.

The golf team and students taking golf classes currently have to travel about eight miles to Bull Creek Golf Course to practice. The new facility, which will be open only to students and faculty, will be within walking distance of the main campus.