Dozens of visitors and honored guests braved the cold and huddled close Friday to take part in a ceremonial ribbon cutting to officially open the new Toqua Golf Course clubhouse.

The ceremony featured several guest speakers, including Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, state Rep. Lowell Russell, R-Vonore, Tellico Village Property Owners Association president Bruce Johnson and POA general manager Winston Blazer.

Guests were invited inside to tour the facility and enjoy hors d’oeuvres complimentary of Toqua Grill Restaurant.

“I know so many folks that are longtime residents have been waiting for this for a long, long time,” Johnson said. “The new people that are just here, they’re beginning to see how beautiful this place is, and they’re tickled pink — I’ve talked to a few of them. It’s facilities like this that keep us old people here and bring new people in. Over the last four years that I’ve been involved on the board, we’re doing everything we can do keep the Village on the leading edge, and this is just one example of what we’ve been able to do to do that.”

McNally and Russell praised the Village for their willingness to see the project through.

“It’s a pleasure being here, and I want to give a lot of credit to Lowell,” McNally said. “Even though he was a freshman representative, he kind of took the ball and carried it to the finish line, and I was just glad to be able to help. It certainly took a lot of hard work. We really appreciate what you do. You’re a self-sustaining community, and you’re very involved in the decisions in what needs to be done in the community. I wish all communities were as organized and as thoughtful and hard working as you all.”

“It’s an honor to be a part of this ribbon cutting,” Russell added. “As I travel around the district, one thing that stands out a lot all across in the district is how people want to make a difference. With the opening of this new clubhouse, it’s going to make a bigger difference than before. This clubhouse was one of the very first buildings ever built in Tellico Village, and it’s made a difference through the years in this community. I’m sure it’s going to continue to make a bigger difference.”

Built in 1987, the original clubhouse was intended as a temporary facility, but eventually settled in a permanent fixture that experienced constant wear and tear throughout the years.

The POA board developed a proposal to construct the new clubhouse, which was approved Jan. 23 and budgeted at just over $2 million. Construction began in February.

“Somewhere around 13 years, we had an idea,” Johnson said. “It’s been around people’s thoughts for a good long while, but it seemed every time that we would get to the point that we were actually going to introduce it in the approval process, it was just either cost-prohibitive at the time or the economy had a downturn ... something just always seemed to get in the way. We recognized that if we were going to promote the Village, our centerpiece for the Village had to be improved or replaced. We went through our studies and needs analysis and concluded that best thing was to get a new one, and that was about three years ago.”

Some of the clubhouse’s features include the Toqua Grill Restaurant expansion, covered outdoor patio seating and newly designed pro shop.

“It’s huge, and we’ve had a first-class golf course for many years,” Jim West, director of golf operations, said. “We had a dated, tired clubhouse that didn’t match it. Now we’ve got a first-class clubhouse and restaurant facility to match the caliber of golf course that we have. The restaurant is a lot bigger and the kitchen is a lot bigger. The pro shop is actually 50 square feet smaller, it’s just the old pro shop just wasn’t designed very well. We had an opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper and design an ideal pro shop, so we did and it turned out great. It’s efficient, it displays products well and it’s attractive.”

Johnson believes the clubhouse will attract more potential residents to the Village.

“Not just the Toqua community, but for the whole community to include the part that’s here in Loudon County, as well as Kahite down in Monroe County,” he said. “An important reason why is because we expand and grow by doing a lot of our home tours when people come here through our marketing effort. Bringing them over here before, some of the Realtors would say, ‘I don’t really want to take them to that old building.’ Having a facility like this is symbolic that we’re going to keep this Village on the leading edge, keep it current. With the facility we did down in Kahite and with this facility, upgrading the Wellness Center ... it’s all about looking good and looking progressive.”