Topgolf to Seattle? High-tech sports entertainment company proposes facility in Renton
Fast-growing high-tech sports entertainment company Topgolf has its eyes on the Seattle area with a new proposal to build a driving range facility on a nearly 14-acre parcel of land in Renton, Wash.
Topgolf is in preliminary stages to construct a new 3-story building as part of a mixed use development project nearby Boeing’s 737 production facility in Renton, a suburb 12 miles south of downtown Seattle, GeekWire has learned.
Topgolf held an initial community meeting on Thursday. It has yet to submit an official application to city planners.
“We are actively working to bring Topgolf to Renton and hope to have some exciting details to share in the near future,” said Devin Charhon, Topgolf’s director of real estate and development. GeekWire recently spotlighted Renton’s promise as a potential tech hub, with its proximity to Bellevue, Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport.
The proposed high-tech golfing site is a sprawling vacant lot just south of The Landing, a massive shopping and dining complex that opened in 2007. The 13.68-acre site is a former Boeing property; the airline giant sold it in 2010 for $10 million to an entity called ITF Developments, which is run by Gibson family, former owners of an aerospace-technology company from nearby Tukwila.
Preeti Shridhar, communications director for the City of Renton, said the mixed use development project would also include high-rise and low-rise apartment buildings; structured and surface parking; pedestrian-oriented space; a storm drainage detention facility; and other associated underground utilities.
“We are very excited and would love to have Topgolf in Renton,” said Shridhar.
Topgolf has previously expressed interest in opening a facility in the Seattle region. It applied for a venue in Tacoma earlier this year. The company opened its first Pacific Northwest location in Portland two years ago and held a pop-up event at Safeco Field in 2017.
“As a Seattle resident, I am the biggest advocate for having Topgolf in my backyard,” Erik Anderson, the co-chairman and CEO of Topgolf Entertainment Group, said at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit in 2016. “We hope to make that dream a reality sometime in the next few years.”
Topgolf operates nearly 50 driving-range-meets-bowling-alley venues across the U.S. that welcome more than 17 million guests per year. Topgolf averaged 35,000 visits per day in 2017.
Its buildings feature 6-person hitting bays with microchipped golf balls that let people aim at targets and earn points. They also include bars, restaurants, hundreds of TV screens, indoor games, free WiFi, and space for music shows and corporate events. More than half of Topgolf guests are non-golfers.
Technology plays a key role for the Topgolf experience. The high-tech balls and sensor-laden targets allow customers to play games with different scoring formats.
“We’re able to create a game that is much more accessible to anybody,” Topgolf Media President YuChiang Cheng told GeekWire in 2016. “With traditional green grass golf, it’s pretty hard and quite frustrating to get the ball into a little hole. By having this technology, we can reward the player incrementally for the things they are doing. It’s much more open and there is less friction; it rewards all people participating.”
Topgolf, which originally started in London nearly two decades ago, also owns shot tracking technology Toptracer; operates its own Topgolf Tour; and will build esports lounges at six locations in 2019.
Renton, meanwhile, has undergone a resurgence in recent years in Seattle’s shadow and could be on the verge of becoming the newest Pacific Northwest tech hub. Real estate developer Seco Development is building a triumvirate of office towers designed for tech companies close to the proposed Topgolf site and also has plans to operate a water taxi between Southport and Seattle/Bellevue.
Editor’s note: GeekWire reporter Nat Levy contributed to this story.