City looks to boost revenues at Ala Wai Golf Course, but some worry about what that means
WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a bid to boost revenue, the city wants to upgrade the Ala Wai Golf Course driving range to a multi-tiered facility that includes entertainment options.
"We'd like to do other things there. We anticipate entertainment, food and beverage, pro shop, golf lessons, any number of other alternatives," said Guy Kaulukukui, director of the city's Department of Enterprise Services.
Top Golf is interested in Ala Wai. The mainland company's known for mixing golf with entertainment options that appeal to non-golfers at the many driving ranges it operates nationwide.
"Top Golf would definitely make its mark as far as the tourists go," Ala Wai Driving Range Director of Instruction Jeff Ferry said.
But he worries a Top Golf setup, with hourly prices in the $40 range, would drive away regulars who pay $8 for a bucket of balls.
"For the people that come here and utilize the golf course and the facility itself, especially the junior golfers that come, it's not affordable for them," he said.
Kaulukukui says golfers needn't worry, no matter who the city partners with.
"The basic service that you could get at the Ala Wai golf course right now, bucket of balls, hit it out into the range, continues going forward," he said.
Golf analyst and Hawaii resident Mark Rolfing believes Top Golf's operation would be perfect at Ala Wai.
"For me, the motivation from the beginning has been to help grow golf in Hawaii by introducing entities that could potentially take the already iconic experience at Ala Wai Golf Course and enhance it with a diversified product." he said.
Many of the golfers at the driving range Wednesday knew about Top Golf's interest.
"I hear it's like a party at a driving range, something like that," Shon Kitashima said.
"I think people would have fun but a lot of people would be losing out on coming here to practice," Eugene Tu said.
Ferry thinks just adding a second deck would increase revenue.
"If we had the shade, basically, from 6 o'clock in the morning we'd be packed more consistently," he said.
Kaulukukui estimates Ala Wai's annual revenue at $450,000. He said it isn't self-sustaining.
And, he added, even if the city doesn't end up partnering with Top Golf something still needs to be done.
"We know if we don't do something like this, we will face some much more difficult choices in the near future," he said.
The city is hosting meetings to discuss options for the driving range with golfers. The meetings are set forThursday at 3 p.m. and Friday at 10 a.m. in the Ala Wai Clubhouse.
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