El Segundo Golf Course is looking to improve their course, a high-tech driving range is among them.
By: Kristin S. Agostoni, staff writer dailybreeze.com
El Segundo’s municipal driving range could be in line for a high-tech makeover.
The city in the coming months will evaluate plans from a company that wants to overhaul the range and making other changes to the nearly 20-year-old golf course along Sepulveda Boulevard.
The Lakes at El Segundo has stood across from the Chevron oil refinery since 1994, when the city built a nine-hole course to replace one that had closed several years earlier. Despite predictions that a new course and driving range would be an obvious moneymaker, The Lakes hasn’t been a profitable venture for El Segundo, staff members say.
In hopes of attracting new customers and boosting revenues, city leaders are considering a proposal from a local development firm and a Dallas company that’s patented a technology-driven golf game.
TopGolf has suggested replacing the current range with three stories of covered bays that invite golfers of all ages and abilities to hit special micro-chipped balls toward targets equipped with sensors. Golfers are assigned points for accuracy based on where their balls land on the targets, and the technology displays their results instantaneously inside the bays.
In a presentation Tuesday night to the City Council, TopGolf Chief Development Officer Randy Starr described the concept as “almost like bowling” for golfers, in that up to six players can take turns and compete against each other.
“It turns it into a fun game,”
Starr said of the concept developed by two brothers in London. “The game itself creates a very unique social experience.”
And socializing is expected at TopGolf facilities, seven of which exist today in London and the United States, with the closest sites in Texas. They come with full-service restaurants run by executive chefs – don’t expect “bowling alley food,” Starr said – along with bars, meeting areas and event spaces.
The facilities are designed to appeal to those serious about the sport – after all, he said, they offer the free use of Callaway golf clubs – as well as the young and inexperienced. Starr said TopGolf driving ranges eliminate traditional entry barriers for would-be golfers who may turned off by the cost of playing or those who are intimidated to do so.
“One of the things that we’re most proud of, we appeal to people of all ages and skill levels,” he said. “TopGolf takes down those barriers because you are not being watched by the people behind you.”
The company, which is working with El Segundo’s Centercal Properties LLC to get the proper land-use entitlements and move the project forward, expects to spend at least $15 million on the new range, Starr said.
A Centercal representative told the council that the plans propose absorbing the first hole at The Lakes golf course to provide space for more than 200 additional parking spots. Developers also suggest altering holes four and nine and building a new pro shop on the site.
TopGolf would operate the driving range, while El Segundo would reach out to Lane/Donovan Golf Partners, which now operates The Lakes, about continuing to run the course, City Manager Greg Carpenter said.
By staff estimates, a new TopGolf driving range could create the equivalent of 120 full-time jobs and bring in annual city revenues of $75,000, not counting revenues from a long-term ground lease.
Given those potential benefits and the novelty of the high-tech driving range, council members on Tuesday expressed excitement about the proposal and voted to send it to three city panels for consideration.
Councilman Dave Atkinson, who tried out a TopGolf site in Chicago, called the concept “incredible.” He also suggested that El Segundo’s facility, like the one he visited, offer miniature golf, which is hard to come by in the South Bay.
“I’m not a very good golfer but it was a whole lot of fun,” he said.
And Councilman Bill Fisher offered similar compliments, saying the city would be better with the project and that TopGolf had chosen the right place to build in Southern California.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “TopGolf being here is going to be a really great asset.”
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