Topgolf Entertainment Group of Dallas said Wednesday that it "has set plans in motion" to open a multilevel golf driving range venue somewhere in Little Rock's city limits.
In a news release, the company said the facility "would offer the brand's signature experience where players can enjoy point-scoring golf games in an energetic and fun environment."
"We are thrilled to be bringing Topgolf to the capital of Arkansas and planning to join this vibrant community," Topgolf Chief Development Officer Chris Callaway said in a news release. "As we look to expand the Topgolf experience in the state, Little Rock is the perfect place to do it."
The news release includes a comment from Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., who has wanted to attract the company to capital city. He also announced the plan Wednesday morning on Facebook and Twitter.
"It's been a goal of mine to bring Topgolf to Little Rock since I first reached out to the company on Twitter in 2018," Scott said. That overture was followed by a meeting with the company in 2019 to discuss real estate options.
"This popular golf and entertainment venue is a welcome addition to our community, and its selection of our city demonstrates that Little Rock is a great place to live, work and play," Scott tweeted Wednesday. "Topgolf will bring hundreds of jobs to Little Rock, and it joins a long list of economic development projects that have improved our quality of life and place over the last three years."
The news release did not give a location for the Little Rock venue, or a timeline for construction to start or finish. In 2020, Scott proposed redeveloping an 18-acre space at War Memorial Park near the intersection of South University Avenue and West 6th Street to provide space for "a golf entertainment facility" that integrates sports technology, provides climate-controlled areas for play and food and beverage service.
The facility would've occupied part of War Memorial Golf Course, which the city closed in 2019 over budget issues. But a request for proposals received no valid bids.
Aaron Sadler, the mayor's spokesman, said War Memorial Park is not being considered as a location this time around.
Wherever Topgolf sets up in Little Rock, the company said the venue would include food, drinks, big screen TVs, private event spaces and outdoor hitting bays. It would create about 300 full- and part-time jobs.
Topgolf already has a venue on 11 acres near the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in the Pinnacle Hills development of Rogers. It announced plans for the Rogers site in May 2018 and opened in May 2020. It has has two floors and 76 driving bays.
The Topgolf announcement comes just weeks after a Conway developer announced plans to redevelop the 30-acre Wild River Country property in North Little Rock into a $28 million family entertainment complex that would include another golf game, T-Time. T-Time would sport 30 bays split between upper and ground levels where players can launch their shots.
The prospect of Topgolf entering the Little Rock market will have no effect on plans for the T-Time project in North Little Rock, according to its developer.
“It doesn’t change anything for us,” said Dr. James Thomas. “We have been planning this for a long time. Even if Topgolf does come, we will proceed with our development. What we’re doing is creating an entertainment destination with apartments and restaurants.”
T-Time is on the drawing boards with 30 bays split between upper and ground levels where players can launch their shots measured by TrackMan technology. The project will be part of a planned 67-acre mixed-use entertainment development that will include the former home of Wild River Country at the crossroads of interstates 430 and 40.
Both venues were announced amid a golf boom that began during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, The National Golf Foundation reported 6.2 million new players, an all-time annual high. That momentum continued last year, with 3.2 million new players.
Participation in "off-course experiences" like Topgolf has increased nearly 20% in recent years, with 36.9 million people teeing off.
The foundation has found that the number of people who play off-course is about equal to the number of traditional golfers, but the demographics are very different. Off-course players have an average age of 30, about 15 years younger, and female participation is 12% higher. Off-course players are also more diverse, with 40% identified as non-white compared to 20% of traditional players.
Income for the groups appears to be about the same, with 41% of off-course players earning $100,000 or more compared to 43% of traditional players.
Topgolf has more than 70 locations in five countries. So far this year, the company has opened two venues in the U.S. — both in the greater Los Angeles area — and plans to open another late this year in Glasgow in the U.K. Last month, the company confirmed plans to open a location in Memphis.
(With reporting by George Waldon.)