Rome Prepares for Sand Valley
February 23, 2016
When a well-traveled golf course developer builds a world-class facility in a relatively undeveloped part of middle Wisconsin, a small township faces a world of…opportunity.
Chicago businessman-turned golf course developer Mike Keiser gravitates to naturally unique places to build. The area near Nekoosa contains ancient sand dunes as high as 80 feet, left behind when some 15,000 years ago a glacial ice dam burst creating the inland dells of central Wisconsin. Red pine plantations were carefully removed to make way for an almost seaside landscape of rolling dunes. After the removal of tree cover, the open areas are showing some signs of primitive plant life that once may have grown in this part of Wisconsin, including a small cactus that blooms in spring.
The 1,700-acre resort is plenty of room for golf and some home sites. Keiser assures those concerned about development plans that no homes will be built on any of the golf holes in an effort to preserve the wildness of the landscape within each golf course. Keiser has shown environmental sensitivity through his projects, making sure to balance the use of his facilities while treading lightly on its surroundings – both natural and community.
Mike Keiser and his staff will manage the property with multi-use recreation at the forefront. People are encouraged to use the trails for walking, snow shoeing, snowmobiles and horseback riding. More than just golf holes, this naturally beautiful property should really be seen to believe. When driving around the area from the county highways one might not expect anything out of the ordinary judging from the many seemingly flat red pine stands and open agricultural fields, but just beyond those familiar scenes lies a newly revitalized site that seems more a coastal dune than rural central Wisconsin.
Sand Valley 1 will be completed June, 2017 to coincide with the first US Open to be hosted by a Wisconsin golf course, Erin Hills. Many of professional golf’s dignitaries are expected to hop on over to Sand Valley to take an early peek at Wisconsin’s latest and possibly greatest golf standout. Sand Valley 2 may be ready for play by 2018.
Town of Rome Community Development Authority (CDA) Supervisor Rick Bakovka and other members challenge their business community to think beyond their usual day-to-day operations and open their minds to what should be a steady flow of golf travelers from all over the world to experience their newfound treasure. The CDA encourages landowners and businesses along these main highways and roads to beautify the ditches by weeding them and planting flowers, for example. Signage will be kept to less imposing standards for the many expected metropolitan area golf vacationers to savor the unique Wisconsin features of our northern getaway, still kept relatively protected from over development.
“You Build It, They Will Come” might be true, but “Will They Stay”? While the Town of Rome has established a business park with most of the necessary infrastructure for development, it will not be enough to support the volume of hotels and restaurants required to contain all of the expected influx. As it stands, the layout of the geographical area suits people better by staying in nearby Wisconsin Dells or Wisconsin Rapids, only to jaunt over the relatively short way to enjoy Sand Valley then leave. In order to retain the expected thousands each year coming to the area, the township’s faithful face further planning, investment and implementation if they wish to fully utilize the possible economic windfall a project of this stature has to offer.
Planning for a world-class 36-hole facility also means bringing many jobs to Sand Valley itself. Caddies, outside staff, golf shop and restaurant jobs need to be filled by people as young as their teens, to those looking for longer-lasting, more lucrative positions.
With foresight and careful planning, a relatively undeveloped, naturally beautiful area like the Town of Rome can retain those great traits that generations of residents are so proud to call home, while thwarting the possible downfalls that come with big pockets moving into virgin territory and hastily buying up property for development. The CDA has worked hard building side roads and utilities in areas well before any eminent development. Basic groundwork like this makes it highly attractive for outside interests coming in to explore viable building opportunities, rather than seeing how much more expensive it would be to start from scratch on their own.
No doubt Sand Valley brings with it many opportunities for growth within the Town of Rome and surrounding northern Adams County area, should they choose. As it stands, the surrounding community of Whistling Straits years after its inception, for instance, has remained relatively undeveloped, utilizing on-site trailers and short-term house rentals for tour players coming into the area for major tournaments. As Bakovka points out, it is one thing to allow a developer of this magnitude to come into your area, it’s another to plan together and fully accept the opportunity.
All are encouraged to enjoy the Sand Valley facility for all seasons. To see the latest images of the project and upcoming walking tours hosted by the Town of Rome, visit their websites www.sandvalleygolfresort.com andwww.romewi.com.
By John Hammond, firstname.lastname@example.org