By Gloria Lloyd
There were people who said Tower Tee could not be saved.
They said it would never come back.
But a group of highly organized, very determined South County residents still came to St. Louis County Council meetings every week, rain or shine, winter or summer, meeting after meeting for 18 months.
And they did it. They actually saved Tower Tee.
Much of the news The Call has covered lately is so unexpected and outrageous that if someone detailed them in a book or a movie, critics would say these things were unrealistic and could never happen.
And the comeback of Tower Tee ranks right up there, with an ending good enough for a movie but full of so many twists and turns along the way that it has to be real life.
No one could write it this way. And no one would believe it if they did.
In case anyone is unfamiliar with Tower Tee, it was a golf course, driving range and batting-cage facility that was open for 55 years along Heege Road in Affton.
It closed last year after land owner KSDK Channel 5/Tegna announced it had placed the land under contract to housing developer McBride Berra, which originally proposed 158 houses but then went back to the drawing board after realizing the strength of the opposition.
But the opposition continued this year at a series of town halls held by 5th District Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, and even after McBride said it closed on the property March 1.
If anyone across the county didn’t know about Tower Tee or Affton or how Affton residents feel about Tower Tee, they know now.
And the word reached an Affton native who now lives in Arizona, Steve Walkenbach. He is longtime friends with fellow South County native Mike Shamia, the vice president of the Lindbergh Board of Education, and together they plan to build the new facility by the fall of 2020 and operate it together.
Larger crowds have come to the County Council about various issues like not closing the county parks or Ferguson, but none have been as persistent and dedicated as the residents who came week in and week out hoping to save Affton’s landmark.
It was an inspiring story of citizen engagement even when it seemed that they weren’t going to get their happy ending.
But it’s an even better story now.