Golfers air concerns about Topgolf plans for the Ala Wai driving range

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some regular users of the Ala Wai Golf Course are concerned that plans to re-develop the current driving range will mean spreading commercialization and fewer holes to play. But Topgolf is trying to ease concerns, saying that won't be the case.

Topgolf was selected by the city last month to transform the traditional driving range into a more inclusive entertainment experience. The plans include a four-story tall driving range, with entertainment, dining and drinking options included. The developers made their first presentation for the community at Thursday night's Diamond Head-Kapahulu Neighborhood Board meeting, which was held at the Ala Wai Clubhouse.

The developers said they've already made concessions about what the proposed facility will look like. For example, instead of a big neon blue building, the design will fit in more with the current course. And Topgolf promises that its development will be limited only to the current driving range footprint.

"We're looking forward to keeping the great golf use, inspiring more golfers, and adding revenue to the city for them to improve municipal golf here," said Emily Porter, chief operating officer of the MacNaughton Group, one of the partners in Topgolf Hawaii.

"The golf course does need revenue," said Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, whose district includes the golf course. "It used to be the highest played in the nation, I believe. But attendance has dropped and we do need revenue."

However, some at the meeting still had concerns, with one saying that the Topgolf transformation will be a "trojan horse" than will lead to more development on the course.

"Once people accept Topgolf here at Kapahulu, the bridge happens at University Avenue, three, four years from now, hey, let's do San Antonio Riverwalk on the golf course on the canal, and a sports arena, 25,000 to 35,000 seat sports arena," one person said. "I'm hoping that that won't happen." "

"It's going against the original intent of the area and the lands and the zoning. So I think that's a primary concern," said neighborhood board member Winston Welch.

The plans still need further approval, and Porter said developers want to work with the community on the final plan. If granted, construction would take about a year.

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