cool springs redux

Golfers have a new place to practice their game in preparation for  a match at Mt. Lebanon Public Golf Course. Managing partner Brian Shanahan and his business partner, Richard Garman, have begun the first stages of a massive $17 million overhaul of the 40-acre Cool Springs Golf Center, Hamilton Road, Bethel Park. “We really want to restore it, bigger and better,” Shanahan says.

Now called the Cool Springs Golf and Sports Complex, the expanded 55-acre campus includes a revamped 18-hole miniature golf course with water features, lighted fountains and a party pavilion. Hungry golfers can go to the clubhouse, complete with a bar and quick serve restaurant called The Fairway Grill. Upstairs in the clubhouse, patrons will find two bars, and 16 TVs to monitor lots of sports action or they can head outside to a huge patio to eat and watch the kids drive balls.

A short game area features several cuts of artificial turf to practice chipping and putting, complete with real sand bunkers.

The centerpiece driving range is being relocated to the original clubhouse, with a new, double-decker steel structure. Balls will fall on artificial turf, known for its pleasing appearance and easy maintenance. Other amenities include a pro shop and a high definition indoor golf center where you can tee up to play famous courses from Pebble Beach to TPC Sawgrass. The lower level of outside tees also will have technology integrated to heighten the experience.

John Henk, who has taught at Cool Springs for 18 years, is the general manager of golf, and his staff includes instructor Jeff Ellis. Other teachers, such as Missie Berteotti, also will give lessons.

Phase II of the project, which will begin once the other buildings are complete, will replace the batting cages near Hamilton Road with a full-size Dek hockey rink. The entire nearby hillside, including 275,000 yards of dirt, will be graded to be more gentle and allow three or four outdoor fields and walking trails. With 15 acres of adjacent land purchased from Bethel Park, the developers will be able to build a 138,000-square-foot indoor sports center with two multipurpose fields for baseball, volleyball, soccer and football. A fitness center also is a possibility. Another entrance to the complex will be added along Baptist Road.

Cool Springs was built in 1979 by Bill Duckworth and was bought and sold several times, including one incarnation in the late ’90s as a Golden Bear Golf Center owned by golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Jack Flick. “In its heyday, it was a happening spot,” Shanahan says. In fact, he jokes that if you walk through South Hills Village and interview 100 people, many would say, “I had my first date out there.”

But several bankruptcies and a brief turn as a part-time snow tubing spot, ran the place into disrepair. “It was really a shame,” Shanahan says. After it closed in the fall of 2013 and had a much-publicized fire, a developer was slated to buy the property and turn it into single-family homes. But that fell through, paving the way for Shanahan and Garman to pay cash to get the property out of foreclosure and begin work over the winter and spring.

Shanahan, an entrepreneur from Upper St. Clair, and the founder of CardConnect, a payment processing company, did marketing studies and learned that 268,000 people live within a five-mile radius of the center, with many children and families wanting to play sports. “We feel like it’s going to be amazing and well-used and well-received around here,” he says. At press time, he was hoping for an opening before Memorial Day. “People are going to be, like, ‘Wow!’”

—Laura Pace Lilley