Northeast Times

A hole lot of fun at Burholme golf center

Jack Crouse works on his swing be­fore the grand open­ing ce­re­mony at Burholme Golf & Fam­ily En­ter­tain­ment, Wed­nes­day, Ju­ly 18, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

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The mini­ature golf course, driv­ing range and base­ball and soft­ball bat­ting cages have been fix­tures at Burholme Park for dec­ades.

Last week, a num­ber of pub­lic of­fi­cials re­min­isced as Burholme Golf & Fam­ily En­ter­tain­ment held a grand-re­open­ing cel­eb­ra­tion.

Mike De­Ber­ardinis, com­mis­sion­er of the city De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation, spoke of bring­ing his wife and four kids from Fishtown for fun times.

State Rep. Kev­in Boyle, an Ol­ney nat­ive, said his par­ents brought him and his older broth­er Brendan to the fa­cil­ity when they were young­er.

Long­time Burholme res­id­ent Al Tauben­ber­ger, pres­id­ent of the Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce and Boyle’s re-elec­tion op­pon­ent, vis­ited the place with his par­ents, took his kids there and is look­ing for­ward to soon bring­ing grand­daugh­ter Ava for a game of mini­ature golf.

And state Rep. John Sabat­ina Jr. said his dad used to bring him to the bat­ting cages, and the lifelong Rhawn­hurst res­id­ent later brought dates there to “beat me at mini-golf.”

“It’s a neigh­bor­hood land­mark,” Sabat­ina said.

On Ju­ly 18, the land­mark showed off its new look. May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter was sched­uled to ap­pear, but he was a late scratch due to first lady Michelle Obama’s ap­pear­ance in North Phil­adelphia the same day.

Still, the may­or’s ab­sence did not dampen the en­thu­si­asm on a sun-drenched af­ter­noon.

Ken Sim and John Kirincich star­ted pur­su­ing a lease deal with the city last Oc­to­ber and of­fi­cially took over man­age­ment in March.

“I’m an avid golfer, and I knew there was an op­por­tun­ity here,” Sim said.

The site, at 401 Cottman Ave., was closed from Dec. 31 to April 19, but is now open sev­en days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Crowds have been grow­ing, though the in­tense heat has kept some people away.

“We’ll try our best to make it the best fa­cil­ity in the area,” Sim said.

Sim and his 9-year-old son Noah cut the rib­bon dur­ing the ce­re­mony. He and Kirincich met two years ago while work­ing on a busi­ness pro­ject in Geor­gia and have spent al­most $850,000 in cap­it­al im­prove­ments and equip­ment on this ven­ture.

There were chal­lenges in the be­gin­ning. Only two of the six bat­ting cages worked. The ma­sonry was cracked. The in­teri­or was drab. The foun­tains didn’t work. And the grounds were littered with trash.

“We took enough debris, I kid you not, to fill this room twice over,” Kirincich said as he stood in the spa­cious, full-ser­vice snack bar/cafe area.

The parks and re­cre­ation de­part­ment owns the prop­erty, and the busi­ness is op­er­ated in part­ner­ship with the Fair­mount Park Con­servancy, which re­ceives a por­tion of the pro­ceeds.

The mini­ature golf course has new land­scap­ing and sev­en work­ing foun­tains and wa­ter­falls. The bat­ting cages have new ma­chines of dif­fer­ent speeds. And the driv­ing range has new tar­get greens, 63 ren­ov­ated stalls (some covered) and a dis­play of dis­tances to each green.

Golf les­sons are avail­able, and there’s enough room for birth­day parties and oth­er cel­eb­ra­tions.

In the fall, a sit-down fam­ily res­taur­ant will open.

DiB­er­ardinis de­scribed the fa­cil­ity as a “pos­it­ive place for young people to be.”

“Kids can come to learn base­ball and golf,” said Kirincich, whose back­ground is work­ing on polit­ic­al cam­paigns and serving in gov­ern­ment.

The First Tee of Great­er Phil­adelphia, a dec­ade-old or­gan­iz­a­tion, has in­tro­duced golf to 5,800 area youth, and is “work­ing our way to ten-thou­sand,” said ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or John Mac­Don­ald. The group will work with young­sters at Burholme and is look­ing for­ward to us­ing the driv­ing range.

“It’s really a life-skills pro­gram where we’re ba­sic­ally build­ing char­ac­ter edu­ca­tion,” Mac­Don­ald said.

Tauben­ber­ger presen­ted a plaque to Sim and Kirincich, new mem­bers of the loc­al Cham­ber of Com­merce.

“We are de­lighted that you are in this neigh­bor­hood,” he told them.

The new op­er­at­ors are wel­com­ing people of all ages to vis­it the com­plex.

“We’re try­ing to make it a full fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment cen­ter,” Sim said. ••

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You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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