Breaking par: After a decade, Rea Park clubhouse renovation starts

Mar. 18—It had been a decade in the making, but Monday ground was broken on the restoration project for the Rea Park Clubhouse.

Mayor Brandon Sakbun called it a "monumental day" and "a win for Terre Haute and Vigo County" as he addressed those gathered as snow swirled in the March air.

Mike Harding, who initiated the Friends of Rea Park organization to raise funds to renovate the city-owned golf course's clubhouse said the park and clubhouse "represent our values and our culture." The group has raised $700,000 to date.

The clubhouse project — which is expected to be completed in fall of 2025 — is only part of the Rea Park makeover. A pickleball fitness center, a playground and a track circling the park for running or biking will also be added, and the Riley Spur Trail is scheduled to be connected with the park.

"Rea Park is going to be so much more than a golf course," Sakbun said after the groundbreaking.

"This is phase one, a complete upgrade of the clubhouse, but phase two, we're already looking at how do we integrate walking trails, pickleball, tennis, some youth activities — whether that's playground equipment or splash pads, we're keeping our options open," said the mayor.

"Folks in southern Vigo County don't have as many city parks that are as close as Rea Park," he added. "The goal is to get folks outdoors. We're doing a long-term parks plan to get a year-by-year strategy together."

Earl Elliott, who has been a member of Friends of Rea Park since its beginning, said the groundbreaking "is a huge step. I'm pleased I didn't cry. I appreciate all of the support from Mayor Bennett and now Mayor Sakbun. He's hugely behind this project.

"Now that we've got this rolling, I think he's going to start planning for more things," Elliott added. "The amenities we're going to have are just going to be tremendous. The community will love it."

Elliott has been playing golf since he was 8 years old; Sakbun plays occasionally himself — "I do enjoy hitting the course every now and then," he said.

Will Elliott challenge Sakbun to a match? He laughed.

"Maybe a closest to the pin contest on ribbon-cutting day," he said. "We'll come up with a little something. I like ribbon-cuttings a lot more than groundbreakings. As Yogi Berra said, 'It's not over till it's over.' This will be over."

All told, Rea and Herz-Rose Parks were awarded a combined $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. The Herz-Rose project will cost $2.3 million. Hannig Construction won the contract for the clubhouse's renovation for $3.4 million. The rest of the Rea Park renovation will be funded by the Friends of Rea Park and READI 2.0 money.

"A large part of this project and the future of the Parks Department is the result of a strong partnership with the Wabash Valley Regional Development Authority and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation," Sakbun said. "A large part of the long-term and short-term planning is due to READI ... which allows the state to match our local investment into our parks."

David Kronke can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at david.kronke@tribstar.com.