High-tech golf driving range/entertainment center coming near PBIA

5:32 p.m Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 Local
Planned Drive Shack golf entertainment will have restaurant, rooftop lounge near airport. (Contributed)

Golfers dreaming of a long, straight fairway need look no farther than the main runway at Palm Beach International Airport.

Then look a little to the northeast and you’ll find it, in computerized form, in a Drive Shack golf entertainment center planned for a 12-acre, former cell phone waiting area at 1600 Belvedere Road.

The city commission on Monday approved zoning changes needed for Drive Shack Palm Beach LLC to build “an indoor/outdoor computerized golf driving range with interactive scoring” and a restaurant and lounges, on vacant land leased from the Palm Beach County Department of Airports. The company hopes to open the doors by the end of 2018, said Josh Nichols, partner with Schmidt Nichols landscape architecture and land planning firm in West Palm Beach.

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Drive Shack, a publicly held New York company, plans to build a three-story, 61,908-square-foot building that will house 96 “hitting bays,” each with room for six players to sit together, as one would at a bowling alley. As a player smacks a golf ball out into the driving range, camera technology analyzes swing and trajectory to determine which target or area within the driving range the ball goes to, to score points.

While players will aim for physical targets on the range, there’ll also be virtual targets on a screen for them to aim at, Nichols said.

The center will include a rooftop terrace for eating and socializing, and meeting space for community and corporate events of up to 200 people.

The West Palm venue is one of a handful of golf entertainment centers the company plans in Florida during the next year, including its first one anywhere, a $20 million to $25 million venue in Lake Nona, near Orlando, scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2018.

The Belvedere Road project will create 150-250 construction jobs and 300 to 350 permanent full- and part-time jobs, Nichols said.

Trees will be planted around the perimeter and in its parking lot and bicycle paths will connect the site with surrounding properties. The golfing area will be surrounded by 150-foot-tall posts with netting, to keep balls from going astray.

“We’re excited about it,” Mayor Jeri Muoio said Tuesday. “I’m not a golfer and don’t know the first thing about any of that stuff but I understand it’s an amazing entertainment venue.”

That section of Belvedere Road, between Interstate 95 and North Congress Avenue, has seen a share of redevelopment over the past two years, with the addition of a Dunkin Donuts shop, convenience store and service station, and a Wawa Market with its own service station. A storage facility and hotels also are contemplated for the stretch.

The airport selected the Drive Shack proposal several months ago, after soliciting commercial projects that would attract people to the area.

A Drive Shack rival, Top Golf, also has been expanding and was proposed as part of a prospective reshaping of the city’s golf course. Those plans are in the city’s hands, as it weighs proposals for the course.

City Administrator Jeff Green said Tuesday that he hopes to have a conceptual plan for the course for the city commission to consider in January.

He goes to a Top Golf whenever he’s in Tampa, he added. “It’s really kind of cool. It’s kind of a mix between golf and bowling,” he said.

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