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National virtual golf company tees up new facility in Akron

Akron Beacon Journal logo Akron Beacon Journal 2/20/2020 By Doug Livingston, Akron Beacon Journal

A national company blending virtual and traditional game play at golf ranges is teeing up a big project in the southern tip of Akron at the Raymond C. Firestone Golf Course.

The Firestone 9 would get a range makeover as BigShots Golf takes its Texas-sized swing at the golf market in Northeast Ohio, according to early plans submitted for a building permit.

The golf course does not appear to be impacted by the proposed development.

BigShots Golf, which is expanding its "tech-driven entertainment and culinary experience" in Texas, Florida and Missouri, would be the first company of its kind to bring a golf-entertainment space of this scale to Akron. The nearest competition outside of traditional ranges and courses is Topgolf, which has a similar business model at its eat, golf, party and play facility that's highly visible to motorists where I-480 intersects I-77 near Cleveland.

In an emailed statement on Thursday, BogShots said, "We do not have approved plans for a BigShots Golf location in Akron and have nothing further to share at this time."

A man picked up the phone at the Firestone 9 and said: "We are to make no comment at this time."

"Our far-reaching games and virtual courses are introducing 3D augmented reality to the game of golf like never before — perfect for those new to the game as well as seasoned pros," BigShots touts on its promotional website. "We have cutting-edge ball tracking technology and exclusive Live Play capabilities to compete with players at other locations, so you can play with your family and friends in other cities."

Until a year ago, BigShots was relatively unheard of. Then ClubCorp, the world's top operator and owner of private courses, bought a sizable stake in the venture, according to Forbes. Recent expansion announcements have been in full swing.

The Akron project had not been confirmed, until now.

BigShots newest facilities boast an indoor "Golf Lounge" and patio amenities for all-year fun. "Think date night, craft food, fun family outings, mouthwatering Sunday brunch, happy hour with all your favorites, private celebrations, casual weekends on the patio and so much more," the company's website says.

Planning documents made public this week through a records request with the city of Akron do not give an anticipated construction timeline for the local BigShots project. Pending approval of a county permit, there appears to be no major hurdles for the project.

"Based on what was submitted, it appears to be appropriate use under the zoning code," said Ellen Lander Nischt, strategic legal counsel and press secretary for Mayor Dan Horrigan. "They would be replacing the existing Hackers restaurant and driving range with an upgraded version."

The plans were prepared by Corgan, a Dallas-based firm that completed design and architectural plans in December. The project is using engineers, landscapers, food equipment vendors and other contractors from outside of Chicago or Dallas.

The full project package details demolition, construction and landscaping but not overall cost or timeline. It's all in a permit application submitted to Akron and Summit County public engineers in early February.

The design for a new one-story, 36-bay facility would utilize the existing range. The new, sleek facility would greet golfers with a 26-foot-tall steel boxed entranceway surrounded by aluminum-framed windows. Visitors would approach the front doors along an umbrella-lined staircase that splits a new "mini golf" course-style landscaping on the front lawn.

An outdoor picnic area with sheltered patio space is planned to the right, facing the entrance. Drivers would be able to make a continuous loop through a new parking lot with more than 60 spaces.

Inside, Big Shots offers a virtual game play, allowing golf enthusiasts — even on a rainy day — to tee up against competitors at the same facility or others open or in the works across the country. Doppler technology tracks the golfers swing to plot the aim and trajectory of the ball's flight path. And there's no need to check with a caddy or speed around on a golf cart to find a shanked ball.

Reach Beacon Journal reporter Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.

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©2020 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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