Richard Stroud

Grove Sun

Even though construction crews have been busy digging for several weeks now and some of the foundation has already been poured, Shangri La held an official groundbeaking ceremony for its new clubhouse on Friday.

With over 100 people in attendance, including former Oklahoma governor George Nigh, a longtime resident of Monkey Island, work on the 13,000 square foot facility officially got underway.

“We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time,” general manager Jason Sheffield said beforehand.

Prior to the ceremony Tulsa fencing manufacturer Eddy Gibbs, who bought Shangri La in March, gave a short speech in which he talked about the work that has already begun and his future plans for the venerable institution.

“This is going to be as fine a clubhouse as you’ll find anywhere in the country, not just in Oklahoma,” Gibbs said. “We talk about it being a golf clubhouse, but it’ll be more than that.”

In addition to a pro shop, the new facility will also include a fitness center, practice range and restaurant.

“That’s what this island needs,” Gibbs said. “The members here have never had a clubhouse. It’s going to improve the value of homes and real estate here.”

The new clubhouse is expected to be ready to open by Memorial Day of next year, and is just part of a general remodel led by Gibbs, Sheffield and general contractor Mike Long, who also worked on nearby St. Andrews and is another Monkey Island resident.

Two new golf holes, built to replace the ones lost to make space for the new clubhouse, are expected to be ready by late August or early September.

“You can see the changes here,” Gibbs said. “The two new golf holes will be the first big change you’ll notice because you get to play on something different.”

In addition to the new clubhouse, Gibbs also talked about future phases in the remodeling effort. A new nine-hole course is expected to be completed in 2011, after which the club will begin the task of replacing the greens.

“Our greens are bad,” Gibbs said. “And not because of maintenance but because they’re 40 years old. These [new] greens will be as good as it gets in the country.”

The replacing of the greens is expected to be completed in 2012. Future plans tentatively include a new hotel and convention center, but Gibbs cautioned that economic factors will play a significant role in the club’s future plans.

“A lot depends on the recession.”

Gibbs also dismissed the skepticism he has heard from some people in the area.

“A lot of people have been skeptical,” he said. “They say, ’You’re doing the same thing other people have done in the past’. No the people in the past were burdened with debt, and we’re not going to have any debt here.”

While the club will not be in debt, Gibbs does not expect to make any profit from the venture any time soon.

“We’re not here to make money. We’re not sparing any expense.”