Waiting until the spring of 2017 for a golf course to reopen may seem like a long time when it's already been closed for 16 months, but work is advancing to reopen Meadowbrook golf course, the Minneapolis-owned course in St. Louis Park and Hopkins.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has given preliminary approval to hiring Wenck Associates for $529,042 for design and engineering for the project. Wenck is the consulting engineer for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, which is cooperating with the Park Board, on a project aimed at both golf and ecological improvements.

The work is intended to resculpt the golf course to make it more like the original course while withstanding floods better and keeping vital components like tees, greens and irrigation controls above future floods. Although some holes will likely flood in the future, the goal is to keep nine holes high enough that they drain quickly and play can resume. A slight side slope would be added to those holes to encourage drainage before grass is killed. A driving range also will be added.

The park-watershed district deal calls for the Park Board to pay $319,000 of the Wenck contract's golf-related costs. The watershed district would pay the remaining Wenck costs for the part of the design intended to improve the creek's ecological function, such as creating a more meandering channel. That's expected to slow runoff, reduce sediment and increase wildlife habitat.

Meanwhile, park officials are still working to close a financing gap on a project budgeted at $9.4 million. The Park Board expects at least $1.2 million from FEMA for one-time disaster aid from the deluge of rain that closed the course. The watershed district is budgeted to contribute another $1.9 million.

That leaves $4.4 million that the Park Board estimates could be raised over 10 years from fees charged golfers and other course income. The remaining $1.8 million gap could be addressed by a combination of approaches, according to Assistant Superintendent Michael Schroeder, who said the financing plan is still fluid.

Schroeder said one option is to extend from 10 years to 15 years the financing period for bonds that could be sold be sold to cover much of the Park Board's cost, increasing the golf proceeds. He said another would be to move less earth to cut expenses. He said an analysis will be performed to do a tradeoff to determine how leaving the course somewhat lower by moving less dirt would affect golf income. The financial picture could ease if FEMA grant more of the nealry $2 million it requested in disaster aid.

The current plan calls for the project to go out for bid in February, with construction starting on 15 holes and the driving range in May and finishing in November, for a May, 2017 opening. The remaining three holes would be scheduled to open two months later.

The disaster aid is one factor affecting the length of time taken to reopen the course.  Park officials say they need to design a course that's as flood-resistant as their budget allows because FEMA won't grant the disaster aid a second time.

(Above: Concept plan for the reconfigured Meadowbrook Golf Course.)