More than two years ago, a devastated crowd stared up at the massive flames devouring Milburn Golf & Country Club on a windy November evening.
By JENNIFER BHARGAVA
Special to The Star
On Wednesday morning, another crowd gathered at the north Overland Park club. But this time, they were smiling.
After nearly a year of construction, Milburn officially opened the doors to its brand new clubhouse.
The original one had burned down in 2010 when a contractor accidentally set the roof ablaze.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, club president Eric Packel said the $9.8 million project was an opportunity for members to turn a bitter expeience into something sweet.
Thanks to members’ input via surveys and focus groups, the 33,000 square foot club now features a fitness center, multiple dining areas, men’s and women’s lounges with private verandas and locker rooms, steam rooms, a golf shop and spectacular views of the golf course.
Members have already been using the new clubhouse for the past three weeks.
“This clubhouse is already being used much more than our old one; it’s unbelievable,” said Packel. “The old clubhouse was just a place to change shoes and grab a bite to eat after a round of golf. This place has become a second home.”
In addition to the new amenities, the clubhouse is more modern and spacious than its predecessor.
Mason Hansen, an interior architect with Helix Architecture & Design, said when her company was working on the project, it was important to tailor it it as specifically as possible to what members wanted.
Members said wanted it to be a home away from home, they wanted authentic materials used, and they wanted a connection to nature, she said.
“We wanted to do something unexpected but still make it comfortable,” she said. “We didn’t want it to feel tired, we wanted it to feel special. A country club is not the easiest design to do, but I’m very pleased with how it turned out.”
Several large windows overlooking the manicured golf course provide natural light for the new clubhouse.
Wathena walnut, which is natural to Kansas, is sprinkled throughout each room.
There are even a couple tongue-in-cheek references to the 2010 fire.
Butch Schasteen, superintendent for A.L. Huber, pointed out that to create the outside of the club’s boardroom, construction workers used shou-sugi-ban, a Japanese exterior siding technique that preserves wood by charring it to a pleasantly burned finish. Inside the board room, the walls are a deep red, reminiscent of flames.
The subtle reminders of the fire are simply the club’s way of preserving its history, Packel said.
The golf course and club were built in 1917 by two traveling salesmen who wanted to set up a classy joint outside Kansas City that was easily accessible via the Strang Line Railway. Once built, Milburn soon became a hot spot for Kansas City area visitors who rode the train out there to play golf and relax.
Duke Ellington played at a ball there. U.S. Open qualifiers were held there.
The first clubhouse burned down in 1932, but was promptly reconstructed.
But the one thing about the club that hasn’t needed mending is its community.
“We’re much more than just a great golf course,” Packel said. “Milburn is a place where friendships grow and families spend time with each other. We used to be a hidden gem, but now more and more people are discovering us, which is great.”