Chris Harris (BLA, ’14) is a man with big dreams, especially for Kansas City’s Ivanhoe neighborhood, which he grew up in and still calls home. In the late 1990s, Harris developed the Harris Park Midtown Sports and Activities Center at Fortieth and Wayne, which serves as both a recreational and educational space. He is now working to build a state-of-the-art, nine-hole putting green as a way to introduce the inner city, particularly local kids, to golf.
“My main goals have always been about education and beautification,” Harris said. “It’s unexpected in the middle of the city. The image of this area is crime and blight, but when people come here for events they see how nice it is.”
When Harris first dreamt of building an inner-city golf course, he expected to start with about $10,000. After the publication of a Kansas City Star article in October 2016, Harris said businesses and organizations around town have called him up wanting to help.
“All these people are coming into the neighborhood wanting to help out with the golf course,” Harris said excitedly. “It’s the real deal.”
Harris was recently recognized by the Kansas City Missouri Police Department as a key stakeholder and influencer in his community.
“Chris is a tremendous example for other community leaders of the good that exists in the communities,” KCPD said in a statement. “His outreach is the answer to many challenges faced in our communities today.”
Harris credits much of his recent success to UMKC’s Osher Reentry Scholarship Program. He says the organizational skills he learned while working full-time at Truman Medical Center and taking classes prepared him for the rush he’s having now overseeing the development of the golf course.
“Chris has never been afraid to ask for help, whether that was in class or in life,” said Liz Barton, Director of Scholarships for the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences.
Chris initially came to UMKC because he knew he needed a bachelor’s degree to move forward at Truman Medical Center. He was awarded an Osher Reentry Scholarship, which has given him the opportunity to both advance his career and work on his philanthropy initiatives.
“As a student, Chris did an amazing job balancing his school work, his professional life and his park programs,” Barton said. “It’s exciting to how committed he is to making his community a better place and I’m proud of all that he’s accomplished.”
Harris has already started landscaping and getting the turf ready in preparation for construction to begin once the golf course design is finalized. He’s also working on securing funding from some big Kansas City companies. Sheila Ward, President of the Board, is excited about all the possibilities the new golf course will bring to Kansas City.
“I’m just very impressed with Chris and his singular efforts to go out and raise funds and all the positive results he’s getting from city leaders and the police department,” Ward said. “I think this is going to be really great for the Ivanhoe neighborhood.”