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Golf center to hold dedication today


A golf center featuring a driving range and putting green, part of a public-private partnership, officially tees off today in an Anne Arundel County park a mile from another driving range.

The Glen Burnie Golf Center, a $750,000 investment by Privatization Plus Inc. of Glen Burnie, sits on 40 acres of Friendship Park, which the county leases from the state. When completed, it will include a variety of golf facilities and batting cages, as well as free fishing and picnic areas and volleyball.

The project is aimed at turning Friendship Park into a family-oriented recreation spot instead of a haven for illicit deals in drugs and sex, but without spending tax dollars.

Some of the golf activities compete directly with Ed Graefe's BWI Golf Center, which has operated on Aviation Boulevard for the past 20 years. This bothers the owners, who charge that the county was helping a competing business get started "on essentially free land."

"We were annoyed that the county should pursue a private endeavor across the street from us," said Steve Donnelly, general manager of the Circle Co., which owns BWI Golf.

"We didn't know the county was in business to go against other businesses," said Joe Donahue, one of BWI Golf's managers and pros.

Operators of the Glen Burnie Golf Center harbor no ill feelings, said Vaughn Barkdoll, the new center's general manager.

"We're not here to put anyone out of business," Mr. Barkdoll said.

Although the county has private firms operating county-built facilities at its parks, this is the first time that one has conceived, designed and built the amenities, said Jay Cuccia, assistant director of the Department of Recreation and Parks.

County Executive Robert R. Neall decided to sublease the park to a private firm, which is pumping about $750,000 into it, rather than have the county build and run game facilities.

Two firms bid on the project, both of which suggested golf practice facilities.

The center is to be dedicated today, but the driving range opened earlier this month. Already, pro Bob Felts is giving lessons. Dave Perkins, a Pasadena insurance company owner who recently decided to learn golf, says he tried instructors at several places before settling on Mr. Felts because he easily developed a rapport with him.

The grand opening, featuring door prizes and discounts will be tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. The park will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The golf and game center features a driving range with lighted target greens and 45 tees, a 9-compartment batting cage, a putting green and more.

"We are an off-course range with a pro shop, clubs, apparel, repairs, lessons, and all sorts of gifts and ideas for people. We are trying to identify with the people who want to come out here and not just beat a bucket of balls, but be recognized," said Mr. Barkdoll, general manager.

Don Kim of Severn, owner of an Essex sub shop, decided to try the new driving range because he lives close by. "This here, they have greens. I can practice better target-wise," he said.

Between 18 and 27 holes of miniature golf are to be built later this year or next year, Mr. Barkdoll said.

Some features, such as ground-level lighting of the target greens, were installed partly because of the park's proximity to Baltimore Washington International Airport. Standard lights on poles might have confused pilots, Mr. Cuccia said.

The county also had to prove that a stray golf ball could not hit a plane; in fact, a well-aimed golf ball would have to travel 230 feet and be 11 stories in the air to have a remote chance of doing that, Mr. Cuccia said. The placement of the driving range itself had to allow for a clear zone for airplane travel over the park.

Two vending machines and game machines are tucked behind an 88-foot long deck that faces the greens. A snack bar may be added this summer, Mr. Barkdoll said.

BWI Golf has about 40 tees and 18 holes of miniature golf. Its shop offers repair services, Mr. Donahue said.

Company owners have no plans to close, despite persistent rumors, he added.

The land is zoned for industrial use, Mr. Donnelly noted, but the company has no plans to build.

The county has leased the 152-acre Friendship Park from the state since 1965. A new, 20-year lease allows the county to sublease a section of the park, off Dorsey Road, to Privatization Plus for 20 years.

The county will receive $50,000 a year, or 5 percent of gross receipts, whichever is greater.

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