Golf Course Shaping Up On Former Refinery Site

With a total of only about 50 golf courses in its inventory, the state of Wyoming rarely sees new golf projects come its way. In recent years, most new courses have been built in the burgeoning resort areas near Jackson in the western half of the state. But, barring unforeseen weather anomalies, the city of Casper in east-central Wyoming will be home to a championship-caliber 18-hole layout in 2004.

In February 2003, shaping and irrigation installation by Niebur Golf was continuing on Three Crowns Golf Course, a layout designed by Robert Trent Jones II. The $10-million golf project has undergone several changes since its conception a few years ago, but the focus is now clear. In mid-2002, the city pledged $1 million for a high-end clubhouse, seeking a more expansive facility to satisfy multiple community purposes. Also, the course’s original plans were altered to give it the "championship" status needed to lure a Nationwide Tour event to Casper. These upgrades added about $2.5 million to Three Crowns’ price tag.

The golf course is part of a $60-million redevelopment effort promised by BP Amoco under a 1998 Reuse Agreement. The project is overseen by the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board, an agency charged with redeveloping the former Amoco refinery site. The landscape of the property, used nearly a century for oil refining, is gradually being changed into a community resource, called Platte River Commons. Besides the golf course, the reclaimed land will ultimately contain a new groundwater treatment facility, an expansive wetlands area, commercial components, and King Boulevard, a four-lane thoroughfare splitting the once blighted terrain.

Even though millions of gallons of oil have been removed from the site, there is still a great deal left, according to Bill Stephens, the director of government and public affairs for BP, the petroleum giant that now owns the land and operates a nearby refinery. In comments made in January 2003 to the Casper Star-Tribune, Stephens estimated there are still around 30 million gallons of crude left on the site. Most of this will probably never be extracted, he said, although efforts will be made to remove as much oil as possible. At any rate, all the potentially harmful oil near the surface will be taken out, thus allowing the land to be safely reused.

“Throughout waste removals and the continuing operation of our wells we’re going to . . . be able to put this thing into reuse quickly. We can do this because the top several feet are fine,” Stephens told reporter Brendan Burke. In 2002 alone, 11 million gallons of oil were taken off the site and recycled into gas and other products, Stephens said.

Part of the site mitigation also involves removing thousands of underground pipes, which are being unearthed in many different shapes, dimensions and ages. Once extracted, the pipes are sold to recyclers for reuse. Another component of the clean-up is the removal of concrete which, once extracted, is being recycled and reused, including for the roadbed for the new King Boulevard.

Approximately 200 men and women are reshaping the 300-acre property. The workers have been helped by a warmer than normal winter. If all goes well at this former eyesore dominated by rusting tanks and machinery, golf spikes will be trodding the land instead of oil-stained workboots in 2004.