DECATUR – When the Overlook Adventure Mini Golf course opened this summer, it represented a major step forward for the Decatur Park District's long-term plans for Nelson Park.

The 36-hole course is along U.S. 36, the first of what district officials envision as a bevy of recreational offerings in that area including batting cages, a large playground and a water park. Overlook Adventure Park is a key piece of the ongoing lakefront development plan.

Besides its importance in the overall scheme of the park, the course represents a major investment for the district, which spent more than $3.7 million altogether on the project. Yet the opening July 12 came months later than anticipated, and adjoining restaurants CherryBerry and Ted's Taters trailed behind.

Despite those complications, the course performed well over district staff's expectations, logging more than 27,000 rounds, said Jamie Gower, director of recreation and facilities for the park district. It closed Nov. 2.

The course brought in $158,000 during its three months of operation, which was $43,000 more than district staff had estimated. Operating costs so far totaled roughly $47,000, but Gower said that number was not final.

The district paid $1,235,835 for the design and construction of the zoo-themed course; $1,906,074 for the building; and $613,955 for the parking lot, which is expected to accommodate future development in the area.

Park district Executive Director Bill Clevenger said the course wasn't expected to make enough money to cover its initial construction costs. Rather, the district's hope is that the course would generate revenue beyond its operating costs, and that excess money could be invested into other parts of the district.

Clevenger said the reaction to the course so far has been phenomenal, despite the piecemeal opening.

“In an optimal situation, it would have been great if the doors could have swung open on the whole operation at one time. Unfortunately, last spring and last winter dealt us some setbacks in weather, and even through the spring, it dealt us setbacks in the weather,” he said. “We couldn't deal in the world of perfect, so individually, they moved along.”

Gower said district staff members are already meeting to discuss packages and offerings to draw people to the course. He acknowledged that the newness will eventually wear off, so events, leagues and other initiatives will become important to drive people to play.

“We have to look a little bit beyond the recreational, 'Hey, let's go have fun.' We have to also push some other ideas there, and we'll keep doing that,” Gower said.

CherryBerry opened in September, and Ted's Taters held a “grand opening” last weekend. Both restaurants will remain open throughout the winter, and Clevenger said they could offer a great hot chocolate and restroom break for people who go sledding in the snowy months.

The district has also applied for a state grant that would help pay for batting cages, a playground and ropes course to be built near the miniature golf clubhouse. It is expected to learn the status of the grant early next year.

The miniature golf course is expected to reopen in April. District officials expect to hold an event next spring to celebrate all three pieces being open at the same time.

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Regional Editor

Regional editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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