Topgolf is coming to Omaha.
The popular entertainment centers, focused on video game-influenced golf and socializing, have been popping up around the nation, mostly in larger cities.
A World-Herald story had reported in February that the Dallas-based Topgolf was looking for a space in Omaha. They found it near Westroads Mall.
On Wednesday, investors took a request to the City of Omaha Planning Board for rezoning and a special use permit for land currently occupied by Baxter car dealerships southwest of 102nd and Nicholas Streets.
They have plans teed up to build one of the popular indoor/outdoor driving range complexes next year.
“We hope to break ground in late 2018 and deliver the project sometime in 2019,” said Drew Snyder, managing partner of Westroads Investors LLC.
The Planning Board voted 7-0 to back the rezoning and permit.
It would be the first location in Nebraska for Topgolf, whose blend of techy golf play with food, drink and socializing is proving wildly popular in cities across the nation.
The Omaha venue would have 72 climate-controlled hitting bays on three levels, the developers said. The bays will be open in front but heated in winter so they can be used all year.
Each bay can host up to six golfers. They’ll hit balls into a net-wrapped area 240 yards long.
Each ball has an embedded microchip that tracks the distance and accuracy of each shot. Chip readers compute players’ score after each shot.
The venue will also include a lounge, bar and full-service restaurant, said Larry Jobeun, attorney for the developers.
Topgolf has venues in about 30 cities across the country.
They’re particularly popular for corporate events, said Jeff Elliott, a Westroads Investors partner. He said a lot of business people go to Topgolf to eat lunch and hit golf balls.
Topgolf will lease the Omaha location and operate it out of Dallas.
The Baxter car dealerships on the site eventually will relocate to 168th Street and West Dodge Road.
Topgolf, which announced plans in January to open a venue in Huntsville, Alabama, has been scouting small and mid-size cities. Omaha is one of the first such markets where a Topgolf will be built, Jobeun said.
According to documents filed with the Planning Board, the 55,000-square-foot venue would include corporate meeting space and a family entertainment area with games.
The main attraction would be the driving range game. Players would hit from bays that each have two television screens to monitor sporting events and track Topgolf scoring.
Players can have food and drink delivered to their bay.
They swing real golf clubs to hit golf balls at 11 targets, earning points for accuracy, or luck, just like in real golf. Unlike real golf, the Topgolf game has 10 “gaming modules” designed for varying skill levels.
You don’t have to be a golfer to play at Topgolf. The company says 60 percent of its customers play golf less than three times a year, if at all.