Over the last eight years, the Rocky Gap golf course/hotel-conference center near Cumberland has been declared DOA more times than a duffer finds the rough on a Jack Nicklaus course. But now this slimmed-down $30 million project may have passed the last major hurdle.
Developers have been identified and all that remains is to sign final papers. Maryland's Board of Public Works recently gave its assent to the plan -- just before a legislative deadline -- thus freeing $7.2 million in state funds to build the golf course -- a Jack Nicklaus signature layout.
Western Maryland is counting on Rocky Gap to ignite a recreation boom. With completion of the National Freeway, the park is within an easy drive of 14 million people in Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh and the Ohio Valley. The immense popularity of golf and Nicklaus courses should make the complex a hit from the first tee-off.
Experienced hands will be in charge. West Group, a Washington-area developer, is building the hotel-conference center; Buena Vista Hospitality, which operates a 1,000-room hotel in Walt Disney World Village and a golf resort in Palm Beach, Fla., will run the facility, and the Professional Golfers Association will operate the 18-hole course. Additionally, nationally renowned sports groups will run golf, fly-fishing and tennis academies and a skeet-shooting facility.
Rather than target only golf zealots, developers plan to market the complex as a complete recreation locale. It sits in a 2,800-acre state park east of Cumberland, with hiking, boating, swimming, fishing and horseback riding. Deep Creek Lake is to the west and the Antietam Civil War battlefield to the east. Rocky Gap could become a mecca for tourists, vacationers and serious sportsmen.
Western Maryland, with its chronic recession, needs a boost. It won't come, though, till 1995, when the complex opens. But construction will add mightily to the economy of these poor Appalachian counties. It's not just a fancy golf course for the affluent to indulge their leisure time, but a generator of jobs and spending for the people of this depressed region. They understand the importance of Rocky Gap better than anyone.