Golf course redesigned as massive park in Charlotte community

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – It’s a massive new park in Charlotte you probably didn’t know existed. Until just a couple months ago, it was the domain of golfers.

Now, the cart paths are walking, running and biking trails. The sand traps are big sandboxes. The water hazards are fishing holes.

The golf course that runs between the office buildings in Ballantyne is now called Ballantyne’s Backyard. It’s a park open daily to the public from dawn to dusk. One Saturday a month, it hosts a festival of music, shopping, food and beer. 

It opened in May. People, like grandmother Susan Bartko, are just now finding it.

“I didn’t know it was all the way here. I mean, I go past it all the time to go to LA Fitness and my friend here told me about it, and I thought – let’s try it,” Bartko said.

This is not a county park. The property is still owned by Northwood Office. This move to close the golf course and open a park is part of a bigger plan. 

It’s called Ballantyne Reimagined. Phase one of the plan will take about five years. We caught up with Hailey Rorie of Northwood to find out what’s next.

Jamie: Was that a hard decision to make to shut down a golf course like this?

Hailey:  Some people probably were disappointed to see the golf course go, but now it’s really accessible to all walks of life and that’s really exciting. We really just want to condition the community to come out and connect with nature explore with their family, picnic, play, be inspired.

Jamie: You have events once a month, right?

Hailey: Yes. Our inaugural Markets at 11 kicked off on May 8, and that is an open-air market. It’s hosted on the second Saturday of every month from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The community can come shop 40 to 50 small Business vendors, grab lunch from local food trucks, enjoy brews from local breweries, live music performances all day long. So, it’s really a vacation in Ballantyne. We’ve had a couple of these so far.

Jamie: What have you seen numbers-wise?

Hailey: The first event brought out 5,000 people and then that doubled on June 12. So, it has been amazing to see the outpour of positive feedback at these events, but also the diverse crowds that have come out to enjoy them.

Jamie: I’ve seen kids out here fishing, people walking their dogs, all of these trails are accessible. It used to be the golf cart path, right?

Hailey: That’s correct. The existing cart paths are now running and walking trails, the sand pits are now sandboxes for children to play in. We have catch and release fishing. The park is open every day from dawn to dusk.

Jamie: Let’s talk more long-term here, what the vision for this whole area is. Because obviously, office space, everything has sort of changed here just in the last few years, and kind of quickly. What do you want this to look like five years, 10 years from now?

Hailey: All of this is just building momentum toward Ballantyne Reimagined. The goal of that project is to create a more urban and walkable environment that creates a better life for everyone. We do have a commitment to green space, so Northwood will be creating 10 parks. We will have an open outdoor amphitheater that can accommodate 3,500 people and will have a connection to the greenway. So, we’re really excited about the opportunities there.

Jamie: Do you have to be competitive with other areas of town? South Park, Southend and places like that have that ability to sort of come out of the office building and head right to a restaurant for a bite to eat – that kind of thing?

Hailey: People want to connect with nature. They want everything to be more walkable, more urban. They want to be productive in their day.

Jamie: It’s interesting because this was the suburbs, right? There was a certain lifestyle of what the suburbs were, but now people are shifting back to, as you described, being more of an urban feeling, walkability. That’s a real shift, isn’t it?

Hailey: Yes, it is. But what we’re seeing with trends with millennials, and even Gen Z, they’re starting to migrate out further where they get more yard, more storage for their children, right? So, to be able to create experiences that are meaningful here, so they don’t have to go uptown or to South End, is really special.

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