LAKEVIEW — The abandoned Waveland Clock Tower building, once used by golfers as a locker room, will soon be home to a youth development facility and after-school golfing program.
First Tee Greater Chicago, a youth golfing initiative of the World Golf Foundation, broke ground in January on a project to convert part of the 89-year-old clocktower building into the program’s youth clubhouse.
The 1,250-square-foot facility, 3701 N. Recreation Drive, will house a learning center, lounge and golf simulator open to all kids and teens enrolled in First Tee throughout the year. It will also have outdoor areas designated for putting, full-swing and short game practice.
It’s part of a long-term deal with the Chicago Park District and is the first of several facilities that First Tee plans to build, with more planned for the South and West sides.
The first phase of this project, which includes the indoor facility, is expected to be finished in the spring with the program starting this May, said Lea Jesse, CEO of First Tee Greater Chicago.
“It’s going to be a game-changer,” Jesse said. “Instead of kids just coming to us for an hour-and-a-half golf session, we can now have a full-day summer camp and full-day programming throughout the year.”
The facility is expected to serve hundreds of children 7 to 18 years old, Jesse said. Having an indoor space will also allow First Tee to expand its programs into the winter months and serve children year-round.
The indoor space will house golf programs, as well as special events and workshops such as a healthy habits summit, career readiness workshops and mentorship opportunities, Jesse said.
“We have a lot of kids from disadvantaged communities, so the idea is that we can have a home base that’s a safe space for them to play and learn,” Jesse said. “It’s going to be a space where our kids can come and hang out, do homework, hit a few balls and feel comfortable.”
The second phase of the project will include building outdoor playing areas designed for putting, full-swing golf and short-game practice, Jesse said. It was designed in collaboration with PGA Tour player Luke Donald and golf course architects Lohmann Quitno.
Construction on the project’s second phase will begin this summer, Jesse said.
The golfing facility adds on to the Park District’s Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course, a scenic nine-hole course along the coast of Lake Michigan.
First Tee is fundraising $1.5 million to support both phases of the project. So far, the organization has raised about 60 percent of its goal, Jesse said.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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