JoANNE YOUNG For the newspaper star

Many golfers and diners know Wilderness Ridge, Lincoln’s southernmost club, as this grand lodge of logs and stones that transports you from the plains to a mountain hideaway.

It’s still that, but the new private club is in full expansion and renovation. It closed during the month of February to progress the facelift inside the pavilion which includes new gazebos in the main dining room, a new four season private dining room, all new furniture and carpets, a gastropub , a fitness center and the reconstruction of the outdoor terrace.

But there’s a lot going on outside too. And all this coincides with the privatization of the club.

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General Manager Chip Cary was hired four years ago and one of his first tasks was to explore the best operating model for the golf course and clubhouse. National studies have been commissioned.

“They all came back with the same comment that Wilderness Ridge is, (with) its location and amenities, with a few additions, better suited to be a private facility rather than a public facility,” Cary said.

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They looked at five- and 10-year population projections and where Lincoln is most likely to grow, where those residents will live, and family demographics. In the expansion, they consider a full range of ages for amenities. And they have the space to do it.

“We just think … the location is really going to be convenient for people from south of Lincoln all the way to Hickman,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to get to, get off (US) 77 14th Street, it’s really smooth. The new bypass south of us allows for a quicker loop from the east side, depending on where you go. find your home.

The golf course opened in 2001, with the clubhouse, nicknamed The Lodge, completed in 2003. If it feels like it’s been transported to the Rockies, that’s because the wood comes from Hamilton , Montana, harvested from standing dead wood. It was built there, disassembled and reassembled in Lincoln. The heavy entry doors were designed and carved in Wyoming. And the chandeliers are Montana elk antler.

Although Wilderness Ridge has become a private club, its Lodge remains open to the public for weddings, parties, celebrations of life, business meetings and other events, as well as dining in the main restaurant.

GWYNETH ROBERTS, newspaper star

“We think it’s pretty special, pretty much like no other place here,” Cary said. “We’re just looking to improve it a bit.”

In January 2021, golf operations – the courses, the pro shop and the Nebraska Golf Academy – went private. With all the amenities added, it will grow from a golf club status to a country club, which offers more amenities and a social scene beyond golf.

“For the family looking for entertainment options or that home vacation opportunity, if you want, then you need the other amenities,” he said.

The response to the privatization has been good, he said, with about 300 members so far and another surge expected when the aquatic center is finished around Memorial Day. The club offers six membership options.

“Lincoln is a very popular city for golf, in fact one of the highest percentages of people who play golf in the country,” he said. “But families have children; children love water.

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The club will still be open to the public for weddings, parties, celebrations of life, business meetings and other events, and for now the main restaurant will be public, he said. But Wilderness Ridge is developing these other amenities, including tennis and pickleball courts, for members only.

The aquatic center will consist of five areas covering 10,000 square feet, some for family use and others for adults only. There will be a 250-foot-long lazy river, a wading pool and activity pool for small children, an adults-only pool with a swim-up bar, an adult hot tub and a six-man competition pool. lanes with two 1 meter diving boards. There will also be a two-tier waterslide between the lap pool and the new public bath.

“It will be, without a doubt, the largest pool complex that a private facility has in the city,” Cary said. “Probably the single biggest thing on the market would be Star City Shores (city-owned).”

In addition to the 18-hole championship golf course and a 9-hole executive course, the new pro shop and golf practice building, which opened in August, features a practice green interior, training areas and private teaching bays.

Progress Wilderness Ridge

The new pro shop and Nebraska Golf Academy opened in August in Wilderness Ridge.

GWYNETH ROBERTS, newspaper star

“It’s unique in the market,” Cary said.

In the practice area, the doors slide like garage doors to make it an open-air pavilion. Players can strike from an air-conditioned environment, with airy radiant heat, in an outdoor area.

“We stay open most of the winter, as long as we can keep the snow moving,” he said.

In the private teaching bays, a golfer can be filmed, have their swing analyzed and their clubs fitted to measure.

Wilderness Ridge is also the course for the Nebraska Men’s and Women’s Golf Programs.