With Tiger Woods in town, Ald. Hairston hoping to convince Lightfoot to get on board of stalled golf course merger


With Tiger Woods in town to compete in the BMW Championship, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said Tuesday she’s hoping to convince Mayor Lori Lightfoot to get on board of a stalled, Woods-designed plan to merge the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses.

Hairston is so gung-ho about the merger, she spent the day at the Medinah Country Club, which is hosting the tournament that runs from Thursday through Sunday.

She wants to get a firsthand look at “the inner workings” of a major golf tournament because “I want to be able to talk knowledgeably about the impact and the opportunity for” her community, should the merger move forward.

“We also have the local golf associations that are out here. And we actually will be having a bus when the tournament starts to bring residents on Thursday” to build support for the merger.

Days after her landslide victory in the April 2 mayoral runoff, Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times she was “not wild about” the golf course merger, which gained momentum when former President Barack Obama chose Jackson Park for his presidential center only to hit a fundraising snag.

“It feels like it’s not a well thought-out plan. It’s not a plan that’s been respectful of the community. There’s some environmental issues with it. … I’ve got some concerns and some red flags,” Lightfoot said then.

On Tuesday, Hairston said she still hopes to convince the mayor to get on board.

“I’d like to take her on a tour of the nature sanctuary because it’s actually all dead. And it’s been dead for some years. They don’t plan on getting rid of the nature sanctuary. They’re gonna maintain it. And the reason that the current sanctuary is in the condition that it is is because there was nobody to maintain it,” Hairston said.

The merger has stirred controversy because the design by Woods’ firm would require closing Marquette Drive, building a pair of new underpasses, displacing tennis courts and relocating the South Shore Nature Sanctuary to make way for a new 12th hole.

The cost of the underpasses alone — at 67th Street and South Shore Drive and at Jeffery Boulevard and 66th Street — is $30 million. That would match the $30 million price tag for the new course.

Park District Supt. Mike Kelly has argued the underpasses — and the closing of Marquette Drive between Cornell and Lake Shore Drive — are needed, with or without the merger.

Hairston plans to make that very same argument to the mayor.

“That intersection right there at 67th and South Shore Drive is dangerous and has been deadly for too long for too many people. Now, we have the capacity to create a safe passageway for people to reach the lakefront. It does not make sense to live across the street from the lake and have to run across Lake Shore Drive to gain access,” Hairston said, noting the project has been “on the books for more than a decade.”

During an unrelated news conference Tuesday, Lightfoot was asked whether she planned to meet with Woods this week to discuss the golf course merger.

“I don’t think the ball is in my court,” the mayor said.

She added, “I’m gonna try, but I just came from a funeral and I’ve got a funeral of a personal friend that I’m attending [Wednesday]. If we can make it work, we will. But this isn’t gonna be the only time that we can have a conversation about that.”

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