GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids is considering spending millions of dollars to create an indoor golf driving range, similar to Topgolf.
It’s still early in the process, and this would not be a Topgolf, like the large-scale driving range in Auburn Hills near Detroit. But city leaders hope this could be a “destination draw” for Grand Rapids.
“Topgolf is the one brand that comes to people’s mind,” said David Marquardt, the director of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation. “It is in most of the major cities across the country, like Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis. That company looks for a big population base and other things that attract people to their cities like major league football. Grand Rapids does not have that.”
So instead of a Topgolf, the city of Grand Rapids wants to create a “scaled-down version” that is still a tourist draw.
“Something like far fewer bays then what you might find in a Topgolf type of facility,” Marquardt said. “But it would have similar amenities where you can get some food, get some drink, you can socialize, kind of a fun atmosphere.”
The city is looking to potentially build an indoor facility at Indian Trails, already a city-owned course, and use the current driving range there.
“The model we would be looking at would be indoor and outdoor,” Marquardt said. “It would have some flexibility. On some days when we do get that nice Michigan weather, you can have that option to be outside and be a part of that experience. But when you have those Michigan days that aren’t so hot, you’ll have that option to be a little more secure and protected.”
Marquardt said there could be virtual games on the driving range, just like at Topgolf.
“That’s allowing people to get out (and) participate in the sport in a very different way,” he said.
Part of the inspiration for the idea is making golf courses a “year-round destination,” Marquardt said. The city is going to work with a design team to create a master plan for the range, deciding how big it could be and how much parking would be needed. The city would also analyze whether there’s enough space at Indian Trails for the project.
“We would look at cost-estimating and get an idea of how much a facility would adequately serve the Grand Rapids market might cost,” Marquardt added. “From there, build a budget we can fund to get something built. Could be a few years off.”
Whether the city would run the facility itself, or contract it out, is unclear right now.
“I think some of that depends on scale, payback or whether or not that’s something we can manage internally on our own, or we’d be better off contracting,” Marquardt said. “We just don’t know that answer yet.”
The facility could cost anywhere between $3 million and $15 million, depending on its size. They don’t expect to use taxpayer dollars, but they still need to figure out where the money will come from.
“The Indian Trails golf course is what we call an ‘enterprise fund,’” he explained. “And so essentially it needs to be self-sustaining like any business. It would not necessarily be taxpayer funded, but rather funded by user participation. We would be looking at some partner funding from other sources. I don’t know how many or whom.”
It could be up to five years before money is secured and the city approves construction. But even after shovels hit the ground, it could take a while.
“The things that will make the most time will be the construction aspect,” Marquardt explained. “As we’ve all witnessed, we’re not out of this network of delays yet. I would anticipate that to be the longest timeframe.”
Still, Marquardt is thrilled about this idea potentially becoming reality.
“I think this would be phenomenal,” he said.