Vets golf course makes plans to host thousands of festival goers

It’ll be a different kind of pitching for Veterans Memorial Golf Course for about a week this summer.

With the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover expected to potentially double Walla Walla’s population for a few days, local officials need a lot of real estate for camping.

And they’re planning tents to be pitched for as many as 22,000 campers at the municipal golf course.

Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont said the course will close Monday of the music festival week. The production company, Madisen House Presents, will begin setup to accommodate the visitors.

If Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena, Calif., can pull off Rose Bowl parking on its golf course, there’s no reason Walla Walla can’t do it, too, he said.

And organizers have contingency plans for every element of the site. With a goal to leave the place in the same condition in which they found it, they would cover the expense of any damage, he said.

The plan is to fence off all greens, traps and tee boxes to protect them. Watering will continue and take place at night as usual. The greens/tee boxes will be watered daily. The city’s irrigation system has a valve and head at each sprinkler that allows them to be isolated.

The holes north of the railroad tracks will not be used, so they will have normal irrigation runs, Dumont said.

The only areas that won’t be watered will be the fairways and the rough, where campers will be set up. Recovery there will be made through water and fertilizer, as the grass is resilient.

City officials don’t believe the move will be detrimental to the operation.

Dumont said the city’s contracted course operators, Early Repass Golf, will be paid by the festival organizers for the closure.

He said there was no public process to discuss the closure with the general public because that would have required notifying the public before the festival was announced, jeopardizing Walla Walla’s landing of the massive event.

The overall financial impact in the community — a conservative estimate of $12 million is expected to be infused here during the weekend — is greater than the revenue from operations of the course.