A new spin on golf may be coming to Golden Gate as Collier County continues to look at ways to redevelop a 167-acre golf course property it bought last year.
Commissioners on Tuesday voted 3-2 to direct county staff to negotiate with a company that would build and operate an entertainment venue, including high-tech driving range and 12-hole golf course, on part of the Golden Gate Country Club site.
The county bought the golf course property at the intersection of Collier Boulevard and Golden Gate Parkway last year for $29.1 million and has been mulling potential uses for the site, including workforce housing and a Veterans Administration nursing home.
A majority of the board has been opposed to the county running a golf course on the property, but commissioners in October directed staff to seek a public-private partnership with a vendor that could provide a golf and entertainment component to the site.
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Two companies, Dallas-based ClubCorp and Bonura Hospitality Group of New York, presented proposals to county commissioners Tuesday as to what type of golf entertainment they envisioned on the county-owned property.
A split commission, despite some concerns about noise and lighting impacts on neighbors, opted to move forward with ClubCorp, which proposes a BigShots Golf 200-yard range where shots can be tracked and scored using technology.
“It takes the trajectory of your shot and overlays it into a digital landscape that can be turned into a game, a competition, into a practice facility and basically allows golf to step into the 21st century,” Randall Cousins, senior vice president with BigShots Golf and ClubCorp, told commissioners.
The goal, Cousins added, is to “lower the bar of intimidation and cost so that anyone can come and play and be successful or have a good time for an hour or two.”
The proposal, which was ranked as the top one by a selection committee, also includes plans for a 12-hole golf course, dining and a putting course. Cousins said the company anticipates offering reduced greens fees to residents and premium pricing for non-residents.
The company has opened a similar facility in Vero Beach and envisions the Golden Gate venue to measure about 25,000 square feet and cost anywhere from $14 million to $16 million to build.
The Vero Beach location has 30 hitting bays, Cousins said, but for the proposed two-story facility in Golden Gate the company is considering 52 to 60 hitting bays.
For some commissioners the newfangled concept was intriguing. Commissioner Andy Solis said the ClubCorp proposal is “outside of the box to a great extent” and that he plans to visit the Vero Beach location.
“If we’re going to do this, I would like to see something innovative that’s going to bring people,” Solis said, adding that it doesn’t make sense to him to have another golf course run the same way other golf courses are run.
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Other commissioners, however, said they worried about the impact the proposal could have on neighbors.
“These are open bays,” Taylor said. “There’s going to be noise and there’s going to be light. I don’t care which direction they face it.”
Taylor said she was more intrigued by the other proposal which that company positioned as the future home of youth golf in Collier with an area to teach young golfers without interrupting the play of those who are paying for a round.
That proposal by Bonura Hospitality Group also specifically eliminated an outdoor, lit driving range, instead envisioning a fully-indoor simulated driving range.
“Not that this isn’t a fabulous idea,” Taylor said, referring to the ClubCorp proposal, “but I’m not so sure this is the place for this kind of activity.”
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Fiala, who along with Taylor voted against moving forward with the ClubCorp proposal, said she, too, liked Bonura Hospitality Group’s plan better. She said she would like to see the county go back and try to solicit more proposals.
Commissioner Burt Saunders, whose district includes Golden Gate, disagreed.
“I don’t know how we could get any better proposals than the two that we have in front of us,” he said.
Saunders said the ClubCorp proposal means there would be a “world-class” operator of the facility and the county would have no exposure in terms of the cost to develop the golf course. He added that if there is a problem with noise and glare, the county would ferret that out and won’t do the project.
“But I don’t believe that that’s going to be a problem,” he said.
Commissioner Bill McDaniel, who said he liked the BigShots Golf concept but had concerns about the impact on neighbors, deferred to Saunders.
“You’re the commissioner of the district, I’m relying heavily on your knowledge and time spent within the district and knowing what the residents in fact are looking for,” said McDaniel.
The county has hired a consultant tasked with making the different components fit onto the 167 acres and is currently also seeking firms to develop housing for essential service personnel on the site.
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