SMU President R. Gerald Turner with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings
Nov. 30, 2012
DALLAS - Calling it "a game-changing investment for the GrowSouth initiative generating enormous economic impact," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings today announced plans for a public private effort between the City of Dallas, AT&T and Southern Methodist University (SMU) to develop a 400-acre former landfill site in Southern Dallas into a world-class sports facility. The facility would include an 18-hole championship golf course, a nine-hole short course, an administrative / teaching facility for The First Tee of Greater Dallas, a world-class practice facility, a practice academy for the SMU golf teams and recreational trails.
"The proposed Trinity Forest project would not only become one of the nation's finest golf and outdoor trail facilities in the United States, it would serve as a powerful catalyst bringing economic opportunity to Southern Dallas and the Trinity project, potentially generating more than $32 million annually in economic impact," said Mayor Rawlings. "Just as importantly, it would change the lives of children through The First Tee's character and leadership-development programs and other charitable endeavors."
Joined by Dallas City Council members, Mayor Rawlings unveiled the ambitious, three-year proposed plan at a news conference at Dallas City Hall. At his side were representatives from AT&T, SMU, the PGA TOUR, the Salesmanship Club, and The First Tee, a non-profit youth development program created by the World Golf Foundation that uses golf to teach important values to young people. World Golf Hall of Fame member (and Dallas native) Lee Trevino also was on hand to pledge his support. PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem participated via a teleconference.
The project would be built on a currently unusable landfill owned by the City of Dallas. The site is located in the Trinity Forest near the Trinity River Audubon Center, just 10 minutes south of downtown Dallas. Upon approval by the Dallas City Council, the project would be expected to get under way in spring 2013, with completion estimated by spring 2016.
A not-for-profit entity - involving major donors, supporters, sponsors and/or participants - would be formed to manage and operate the golf course.
Ron Spears, AT&T senior executive vice president, said AT&T plans to donate $2.5 million toward the development of the trails project.
"Dallas is our corporate home, and we are constantly seeking ways to enhance our community and participate as a corporate citizen," said Spears. "We are proud to work with the City of Dallas, support charitable organizations and be involved in the economic development of Southern Dallas. We're also happy to play a role in expanding the trails system in the Trinity Forest."
SMU President R. Gerald Turner said that once completed the facility would provide SMU access to a world class facility for its golf programs, consistently ranked among the top programs nationally.
"Having such a facility for the SMU men's and women's golf teams to play and practice would be a great benefit to our programs. We're very proud to be a part of this proposed development and believe it bodes well for the future of Southern Dallas," said Turner. "We also look forward to the day when national collegiate tournaments, such as the NCAA Championship, are played in Dallas."
Mayor Rawlings thanked both AT&T and SMU for their support of the proposed project. "AT&T and SMU together have made a very significant commitment to the City of Dallas," said Mayor Rawlings. "We've known for a long time that Southern Dallas holds the most promise and greatest potential for growth. The best news is that our great hardwood forest and natural ecosystem, which provide the perfect backdrop for a premier sports facility, would be preserved for future generations."
The City would fund a maximum of $12 million limited to preliminary site work, environmental remediation, wetland and floodplain mitigation, and public infrastructure improvements.
"The City has known all along that we'd need to clean up this land before anyone could use it," said Mayor Rawlings. "I am thrilled that we have a proposal that would bring significant growth to our tax base in coming years."
Speaking via teleconference, Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA TOUR, said that AT&T is scheduled to become the title sponsor of the Byron Nelson Championship in 2015. "As one of the PGA TOUR's longest continuous sponsors, we're delighted to see AT&T's involvement in this initiative," said Finchem, who added that one day it may be possible to bring the beloved Nelson tournament to the proposed Trinity Forest facility.
"AT&T is excited to be the sponsor of the 2015 and 2016 Byron Nelson Championship, and if all the plans we are talking about today come to fruition, we hope the tournament will be the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship for many years into the future," said AT&T's Spears.
"This is an exciting day in the history of the Byron Nelson Championship and our charity, Salesmanship Club Youth and Family Centers," said Charley Spradley, president of the Salesmanship Club. "With AT&T assuming the title sponsorship of our major fundraising event in 2015 and 2016, we are taking steps to secure the future of the Byron Nelson Championship and our charity.
"Mayor Rawlings said the golf course would allow for some coordinated public play. It could also host amateur tournaments, local charity tournaments, high school golf teams and golfers from throughout the City. He also applauded the involvement of The First Tee, a nationally renowned initiative where young people are taught valuable life lessons such as integrity, respect, perseverance and other character traits through the game of golf.
"The Trinity Forest proposal would give The First Tee of Greater Dallas an opportunity to really grow and broaden its efforts to get participants involved. We have the potential to make this one of the top youth programs in the nation," said Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., national chief executive of The First Tee.
Founded in 2003, The First Tee of Greater Dallas provides comprehensive teaching to over 1,100 youth participants each year in six program locations with introductory programming to over 25,000 elementary school students through The First Tee National School Program.
"The young people involved with The First Tee are going to be absolutely thrilled to call this Trinity Forest golf center their new home," said Chuck Walker, managing director of The First Tee of Greater Dallas. "What an incredible backdrop to grow our programs so even more young people can gain exposure to the powerful character-building lessons that golf teaches."
Turner added that SMU looks forward to a partnership with The First Tee.
"As an educational institution, we're especially pleased to give the young people of The First Tee the opportunity to interact with collegiate players and to encourage their aspirations for college. Likewise, our SMU students will learn and benefit from those interactions," said Turner.
The proposed Trinity Forest site would also include plans for an area dedicated to highlighting the careers of prominent professional golfers from the Dallas area, including Byron Nelson and Lee Trevino.
Trevino, who resides in Dallas, closed the program with memories of his childhood days learning the game of golf at the City of Dallas' Tenison Park Golf Club, located in East Dallas.
"As a golfer who has played the best courses in the world, nothing could make me happier than seeing this very smart investment being made right here in our backyard. This is the big shot in the arm that Southern Dallas has needed, and it's going to change the face of our city," said Trevino. "And as a native Dallasite who learned to play while caddying as a kid, I'm truly thrilled to know that The First Tee will be there to expose a lot of kids -- just like me -- to the wonderful game of golf and the lifelong lessons it teaches."