A proposed technology-centered driving range has fallen behind its original development plan.
The development of a Peoria, Illinois-based BigShots Golf LLC franchise by Springfield businessman Tim O’Reilly was originally planned to begin construction in the first quarter of this year at the intersection of Kearney Street and Glenstone Avenue.
“We are 99% finished with our plans and have had to address some convoluted sewer easement issues that existed on the site,” said O’Reilly, who is conducting the project through Glen-Kearney Development LLC, via email. “We are ready to bid the project out to general contractors and should start construction within 45-60 days with a 10, 11-month timeframe.”
Three BigShots developments in as many states also have had project delays, or ceased development altogether.
Dirt has been flattened and some gravel is in place at the site of the former Kmart in Springfield. The project site sits between the recently opened Kum & Go and the Royal Grill Buffet along Kearney Street. No construction equipment is currently on-site.
“I’d say that we are within our original estimated timeframe,” O’Reilly said. “There are always changes and issues to deal with in a development project, so this timeframe was expected.”
O’Reilly previously told Springfield Business Journal construction would start in the first quarter, but now is on track for the third quarter.
A change in BigShots’ ownership also is in the mix. ClubCorp, the largest owner and operator of private clubs nationwide, purchased controlling interest in BigShots in December 2018 for an undisclosed amount, according to a Forbes report.
The Springfield location has worked with ClubCorp, O’Reilly said, for a complete redesign of the lobby and layout.
“It’s a fantastic change in the dynamics of our franchise relationship and ClubCorp is a first-class organization that we have enjoyed working with,” he said.
According to a published report in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a BigShots development is under consideration, the cost to build the concept is $17 million to $20 million.
The most recent filing for the project with the city is for sanitary sewer and stormwater improvements on March 12 at 1930 E. Kearney St. The city permit does not list a proposed start date.
Previously, a land disturbance permit was approved Jan. 16 to demolish the former Kmart building. The wrecking permit was issued Jan. 22, according to city building permits.
The wrecking permit lists Jerry Bumgarner Trucking as the primary applicant.
Demolition of the Kmart building began in January and finished in early February, said Bumgarner. He said the company took out both the Kmart building and the parking lot and has no other affiliation with the BigShots project.
Planning and Zoning documents from Dec. 4, 2018, indicate an issue with the height of the poles used for the protective netting that would surround the facility, as it relates to the height of the building.
A variance was granted and approved that same day for 75- to 160-foot pole heights and netting, said Springfield Planning Manager Bob Hosmer.
“From our standpoint, we’re still waiting for building permits to be submitted and reviewed,” he said. “The ball is on their side right now.”
Hosmer said the usual turnaround for building permits is 15 to 20 days, pending any issues.
“It’s a pretty quick turnaround,” he said.
Plans for the north Springfield BigShots location include 54 driving range bays on two stories, an outdoor putting green, a full restaurant and bar, an activity center for kids and a golf academy.
The project is slated for a 10-month construction window.
Peoria-based Demonica Kemper Architects LLC was hired for the design work. Most of the firm’s projects are located in its home state of Illinois, but its profile also includes a mixed-use development in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, according to its website.
Demonica representatives did not respond to interview requests.
O’Reilly said the BigShots location is still looking to hire a general manager, along with multiple assistant manager positions.
The BigShots development falls into an opportunity zone, according to a Community Development Financial Institutions Fund map provided by Springfield Director of Economic Development Sarah Kerner.
Opportunity zones are located in economically stressed areas to encourage new investments for preferential tax treatment through the Internal Revenue Service. They were added to the tax code by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017.
If a qualified opportunity fund is held for five years, there is a 10% exclusion of the deferred gain. If held for seven years, the deferred gain grows to 15%, according to the IRS website.
The 11 acres O’Reilly acquired for the development spanning 1930 and 1950 E. Kearney St. have a combined taxable appraised value of $2.7 million, according to Greene County assessor records.
The Springfield location isn’t alone falling behind on its initial development timeline.
Locations are planned in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Fort Worth, Texas, but have yet to break ground after being announced in 2017 and 2018, respectively, according to Albuquerque Business First and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The Albuquerque location is facing contention from competitor Topgolf in that market, where the company received millions of dollars in incentives from the city and broke ground Feb. 27, according to multiple local media reports.
The Fort Worth location was announced last Christmas Eve as part of a Greg Norman-designed golf course, according to the Star-Telegram.
No other reports have been made by local or social media about the Fort Worth location since it was announced.
The main BigShots Facebook page has not been active since June 2017, with the last post showing a photo of a construction site in Peoria, Illinois, for a planned location.
The last year of comments on that post indicate construction never began in Peoria, where BigShots operates its headquarters.
BigShots officials referred comments to Senior Vice President Russell Cousins, who did not respond to multiple calls for an interview about the planned locations.
The first and only BigShots opened in Vero Beach, Florida, in 2018. It’s the only location listed on the company’s website.
Topgolf lists 55 locations in the United States on its website with an additional 11 set to open in the future.
Meridian Title Co. is making acquisitions to build firm to nearly 100 employees in two years.
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