Two longtime residents think they have a proposal that would make all sides happy in the bitter fight over the future of the defunct Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course.
Realtor Chad Chadderton and golf industry expert Roger Lindquist – who consider themselves “Ahwatukee pioneers” because they both have lived in the community more than 35 years – have been shopping around the concept of a high-end nine-hole course with a clubhouse area that would offer fine dining, boutique retail and a water attraction for kids similar to the “lazy river” at the Arizona Grand Resort.
“We’re trying to stay neutral in this,” said Chadderton, who founded the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce and was the early pioneer of the Independence Day fireworks show in Ahwatukee. “A traditional golf course isn’t that practical.”
The future of the course, to some degree, is now in the hands of a state Superior Court judge who last week heard closing arguments in a trial pitting some Ahwatukee Lakes residents against golf course owner The True Life Companies.
While residents want the judge to force True Life to adhere to the covenants, conditions and restrictions that he earlier said dictate a golf course, the developer is asking the CC&Rs be voided because it is no longer able to sustain an 18-hole executive course.
Lindquist, who designs software for the private golfing industry, worked on the course for Pressley Development, which built Ahwatukee Lakes.
He believes the 101-acre site could become home to something similar to the Renegade course at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale.
One of six Jack Nicklaus Signature Courses, the 30-year-old Renegade was once considered one of the world’s most versatile courses because it is designed to allow golfers to choose their level of play – and playing time.
“People don’t have four hours to play golf,” Linquist said. “Our concept would allow golfers to play for an hour and a half or two hours while Mom shopped and the kids played.”
The two men have met with representatives of True Life Companies, which owns the Lakes course, and Save the Lakes, the group representing residents who want the old course restored. They said reaction from both sides has been positive.
But while they believe their concept could generate as much as $3 million to $4 million a year in revenue, they have not conducted a feasibility study to determine what it would cost to develop.
“We’ve got time invested,” Chadderton said.
Added Lindquist, “It’s an emotional investment. I love the Lakes.”
Both men said they’ve been trying to gather support for their idea because they have “a passion for this community,” Chadderton said.
Although True Life has proposed a nine-hole course instead of the farm-centered agrihood it spent a year trying to sell to Lakes residents, a company executive said it is not what Chadderton and Linquist proposed.
“We were already contemplating putting some golf holes on the property in conjunction with our residential plan,” said Aidan Barry, True Life executive vice president.
He said he “was very appreciative” of Chadderton and Linquist, whom he met to discuss their idea.
“They were very enthusiastic about their idea of taking a signature hole from the best courses all over the world and putting them in one spot along with a high-end destination restaurant with views of the South Mountains.” Barry said.
But the True Life executive expressed doubts about the pair’s revenue estimates.
“Since the time we closed escrow on the property – almost two and a half years ago – we have been approached with many ideas from community members and folks interested in sharing their thoughts on what should be done on the property,” Barry said, adding:
“All ideas are good ideas, but not all good ideas are financially feasible. Any investor in a redevelopment opportunity – no matter what it is – will have an expectation for some return on their investment. As to the feasibility of Chad and Roger’s idea, no specific feasibility analysis has been done… The feasibility work that we performed in support of the trial was specifically related to replacing the previous course to a condition prior to its closing in May 2013.”
Linda Swain, one of two people suing True Life in an effort to have the original course restored, did not respond to a request for comment.
Chadderton expressed concern over the impasse surrounding the Lakes course, stating that he recently closed on a house on the course that sold for $81,000 below the original sold price.
He and Lindquist say their concept stresses plenty of water and grass.
Lindquist thinks a waterway that people could float along in inner tubes could run through the apartment complex while a lake could provide an “aesthetically beautiful” amenity for diners.
He said he believes small exclusive boutiques, such as Brookstone or Sharper Image, would be complemented by the kind of high-end restaurant that he said Ahwatukee doesn’t currently have.
“Our feeling is if they (True Life) didn’t win in court, this could be a backup plan,” Chadderton said. “We think it’s viable.”