BUTTE - Perhaps Anaconda’s biggest coming attraction – at least for golfers – this fall will be a visit by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, who is expected to arrive Sept. 29.
While the event is planned in conjunction with the Old Works Golf Course’s 20th anniversary celebration, the visit won’t be open to the public.
Course manager Mark Savoy said Wednesday he anticipates a golf tournament for about 100 to 120 players that day. Nicklaus, who designed the course in the 1990s, will not play in the tournament.
Savoy stressed that the course has a verbal agreement with Nicklaus for the event; however, neither details nor a contract have been finalized. But Savoy said he expects that in addition to the tournament, the players will have a luncheon and question-and-answer session with the famed 76-year-old golfer.
It will be a return visit for Nicklaus, who played a round there in 1997. Savoy said about 2,000 people followed him around the course that day.
Officials connected with the golf course are confident enough of Nicklaus’ arrival to start working toward getting the place spiffed up.
Carl Nyman, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Superfund coordinator, asked commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting to consider asking for another loan from Atlantic Richfield Co.
The county received a total of about $800,000 in loans from ARCO in 2012 and 2014 to keep the course afloat. The facility originally intended to make a profit and generate development in Anaconda, which took a huge economic hit when ARCO closed its copper smelter and laid off hundreds of people in 1980.
Nyman is asking the commissioners to consider a short-term loan for $200,000. The money would purchase much-needed new equipment to prepare for the September 29 event, he said.
Commissioners will vote on whether the county should ask for the loan at their next meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 5.
Nyman said that the institutional controls agreement (formerly called the global settlement agreement) is expected to be reached this summer. Since 2008, the county has been negotiating the agreement with ARCO to compensate Anaconda for damage caused by over 100 years of smelter waste.
He said the loan, along with the larger loans the county previously assumed, will be addressed in the institutional controls agreement. Nyman declined to comment further, citing the court order that keeps these settlement negotiations behind closed doors.
Needed equipment that the short-term loan will buy includes 18 ball washers, a lift to raise heavy equipment, a machine that rakes sand traps and other course amenities. They were bought used and have not been replaced in the 20 years the course has been open, he said.
Golf Digest has named Old Works as one of the top 100 golf courses in the country. Nicklaus has designed about 290 golf courses. About 70 of them have been ranked by major industry publications, including Old Works.
Old Works attracts visitors from all over the country, with 92 percent of its patrons coming from more than 25 miles away, according to course statistics.
But despite its ability to attract serious golfers, the course has not been the economic driver it was expected to be. It has run in the red since 2007 and almost closed in 2014.
These issues led the county to ask for the $800,000 in loans from ARCO. Should the course close, significant problems could arise for Anaconda’s Superfund cleanup, Nyman said. That’s because the course also caps Anaconda smelter waste.
And, it catches storm water.
“That’s a major role for that course is storm water runoff coming off the hillside at Stuckey Ridge,” Nyman said.
The course also provides regular maintenance to the cap – which is turf grass. A traditional cover, such as the one on the Butte Hill, has to be maintained and sprayed for weeds.
Another unique aspect to the course is that it uses black slag -– which is smelter waste -- instead of sand in its bunkers.