SPRINGFIELD, Mo. It's just a pile of dirt right now.
But in nine months at the corner of Kearney and Glenstone, BigShots Golf will become a much-needed entertainment venue on Springfield's north side.
"BigShots Golf of Springfield turns this corner into a destination," said Dr. Matthew Hudson, the vice-president of the North Side Betterment Association, at the ground-breaking ceremony.
BigShots will have the feel of a family bowling center more than a driving range. It will feature a restaurant and bar with indoor and outdoor lounge seating and private event spaces to host games, gatherings, and neighborhood outings.
There will be double-decked tee boxes where you hit real balls towards a series of greens, but high-tech software allows you to choose video games or golf courses around the world as your landing sites. TV monitors next to your tee let you view your virtual reality shots. Players can compete in their own hitting bays, with other players in the same venue or in real time with players at other BigShots locations.
"It has Doppler radar in the golf balls so it's a lot easier to track for virtual reality games," explained Tim O'Reilly, the CEO of O'Reilly Hospitality Management, who's running the nationally-franchised business. "It's really designed to introduce people to golf who maybe are intimidated to go out for an 18-hole experience that might fall apart after two holes. This is designed to take all the intimidation factor out of it and get people in a fun environment. Serious golfers can use it too. They can track their drives and trajectory to have a great training experience."
"It's really an exciting day for north Springfield and Greene County," said Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon, one of several speakers who expressed their excitement over the latest of several O'Reilly venues on Springfield's north side.
"My very first hotel venture was the Doubletree Hotel right here," O'Reilly said as he pointed to the high-rise across the street from where BigShots will be. The golf venue's location is the site of an old K-Mart that went out of business and O'Reilly is optimistic that BigShots will revitalize the area as well as help an overall effort to bring more businesses to Kearney Street.
"Obviously the K-mart struggled for a long time and so to be able to restore this corner into something that's really vibrant that brings in a lot of people is what it's all about," he said. "That's the beautiful thing about these facilities. There's a draw for hundreds of miles. I think it will really invigorate this part of the community."
"North Springfield, it's not a secret, has had its challenges over the years of attracting business and industry and even individuals for recreation," Hudson said. "So anchor points like this really makes it a place where families want to come and work and live."
"We have so many amazing people on the north side that need jobs that pay well and are easily accessible," added state representative Crystal Quade, a north side resident. "It never happens fast enough but we've got folks who need it now."
"It's been a while since we've had a new, exciting thing go in," said Sarah Kerner, the city's economic developer. She's hoping that the BigShots will jump-start more growth along the three-mile corridor along Kearney from Glenstone to Kansas Expressway that the city has targeted for business revitalization.
"Hopefully other businesses will see this is a great place to invest and we'll see some follow-up investment as well," Kerner said.
As the vice-president of the Betterment Association, Hudson was asked what he saw in the north side's future.
"If I had a crystal ball and you look five years down the road and drive down Kearney Street, you're going to see some significant changes," he said with a grin.