Country club neighborhood now sees Senior Open golf tourney as a blessing, not a bother - Omaha.com
Published Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:43 am
Country club neighborhood now sees Senior Open golf tourney as a blessing, not a bother

The streets that wind around the Omaha Country Club aren't the type clogged with traffic and parked cars.

It's a quiet, wooded area where you're just as likely to see a deer or a person out for a stroll on a weekday morning. Horses graze in pastures not far from the golf course.

But in a few days, the northwest Omaha neighborhood will see the kind of traffic that's usually reserved for downtown events like the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials or the College World Series. About 150,000 people are expected to turn out for the U.S. Senior Open.

While the weeklong golf invasion initially had neighbors worried about noise, congestion and rogue golf fans wandering through their yards, residents said they're now excited about the chance to show off the area — and maybe rub elbows with some big-time golfers.

“I don't know of hardly anyone in my neighborhood who is able and going to be around who isn't taking on some kind of volunteer role,” said Carol Lehan, who will be heading up a volunteer hospitality committee. “A lot of people are having parties.”

>Street closings

From Monday through July 14, State Street will be closed from 60th Street to 72nd Street due to the tournament. Also, 72nd Street northbound will have lane restrictions from Girard Street to State Street.

Tournament officials got involved with the neighborhood early.

.

They began working with the city two years ago and began holding neighborhood meetings last fall.

Liz Leckemby, the championship director, said planners wanted to be sure they addressed concerns of people who live around the course. It's an area that stretches east to west from North 60th to North 72nd Streets, north to State Street and south to Country Club Road.

They assured Country Club neighbors that this event was to be nothing like the College World Series when it was held at Rosenblatt Stadium, where visitors parked on front lawns and up and down the streets.

Instead, they planned for a shuttle pickup site at the North Omaha Airport, and decided to keep all traffic off the streets around the course. Residents who live in the area will be issued parking passes so they can go in and out, but no one else will be allowed to park on their streets.

“Early on, some folks thought this (would be) a major inconvenience,” Leckemby said. “But at the end of the day, the rationale is to keep people who don't belong in the neighborhoods out of the neighborhoods.”

Neighbors also warmed to the idea of the tournament because it came with an unexpected bonus: much-needed road improvements.

Country Club Road, which runs past the southern end of the golf course, is the kind of residential street, without sidewalks or other improvements, that typically only gets updated if residents are willing to pay for it.

But in this case, because the street was about to be used as a major shuttle route for the tournament, the City Council gave the go-ahead to spend city money.

Bob Stubbe, Omaha's public works director, said the city also updated a median on 72nd Street, just north of the course. That work, however, was funded with a private donation.

The city also fixed potholes on State Street and fixed concrete on 72nd Street that had fallen into disrepair, Stubbe said.

“I think the whole area is actually glad to see those improvements,” said Judy Kathol, who lives in the neighborhood. “They were sorely needed anyway … (the tournament) was a blessing in disguise.”

Contact the writer: Erin Golden

erin.golden@owh.com    |   402-444-1543    |  

Erin covers the Omaha City Council and the Mayor's Office.

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