If you’re into public benefits and want your opinion heard about what should happen at Burlingame’s Golf Center site just east of US Highway 101, this may be a perfect time to voice your thoughts on the matter. Three very different proposals are with the city’s Park and Recreation department, and the city is taking a final look at all three before a final decision is made later this spring.
In June of 2016, the city of Burlingame issued a request for proposal for the lease management of the Golf Center site for the operation of golf or other recreational or entertainment activities that would be open to the public. The city did not want to contribute any financial assistance to the project, although it did request a minimum annual guarantee in rent as well as a share of the gross revenues.[contextly_sidebar id=”Z6ai2uNA4siKfEeogGRoLMwYYEfYgeCX”]Three proposals came to the city for three different sports venues, and each very different from the other.
One proposal is from the Mid-Peninsula Ice Rink Foundation, a 501c(3) nonprofit public benefit corporation that is proposing two ice rinks at the location of the current parking lot at the site. The project would be run in partnership with Sharks Ice LLC, an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, which operates ice rinks in San Jose, Oakland and Fremont. While the funds for the project have not been secured yet, MIRF anticipates a combination of funding sources donated by the public and local government entities in addition to a commercial loan. MIRF’s rent contribution would come from Sharks Ice directly, and it would offer a profit-sharing arrangement, as well. The project would occupy just the space that is currently used for parking, retaining the soccer field and allowing for a golf center with a smaller footprint (approximately one third of the size of the range in use today).
US Badminton Center Group proposed a facility that would contain 20-50 badminton courts, a 10,000-20,000 square foot wellness center, an outdoor training facility, a food court, a pro shop and supporting spaces. In addition, 20 to 25 of the Golf Center bays would remain for use by golfers. USBC would directly operate the facility and proposes an annual lease payment of $80,000, plus 5 percent of annual revenue in excess of $2.5 million, according to the city staff report.
The final project came from Topgolf, a Dallas-based entertainment company that runs a national network of golf-themed gaming venues. By all financial measures, this proposal offers the most benefit to the city. Topgolf’s proposal includes building a 65,000 square foot LEED Silver- certified facility with 102 hitting bays, 3,000 square feet of event space, a full-service restaurant and bar, a rooftop terrace, pool tables, shuffle board and supporting areas. The company is also offering a minimum $500,000 in annual rent, as stated in the city’s report.
It should be noted that the city rejected the idea of more than one proposal on the site, effectively forcing the council to select a single project. Last week, during a regularly scheduled City Council meeting the city staff recommended that the city commence negotiations with Topgolf, and this is where things got a little more interesting.
The Topgolf proposal is different from the other two in a way that this would not really be a golf facility as one would expect a typical golf facility to be. The proposed venue would be a golf-themed entertainment facility that offers a modern restaurant with neon lights, specialty foods and drinks and games inspired by the sport of golf. It’s a place that would likely attract visitors and large parties on the weekends as well as during the week, but one would be hard pressed to call it a sports facility meant for recreation and learning and playing sports.
The other two have that. They offer a more traditional sports and recreation setting where people can participate in leagues and where tournaments could be held regularly. Future Olympians could train there.
Moreover, the Peninsula has its share of golf facilities and restaurants whereas it lacks ice rinks. Two have closed in San Mateo and Belmont in the last few years. Bridgepointe Ice Rink where Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi, Brian Boitano and Debi Thomas once skated was closed by the owner, San Francisco-based SPI Holdings LLC, in June of 2013. Belmont’s Iceland was shuttered last year, as well.
South San Francisco has one 9-court badminton facility managed by Bay Badminton Center.
Representatives of MIRF were hopeful that their project will prevail even as specifics about its funding are still uncertain. But the benefit to the region, in their minds, is anything but that. They cite the rink’s ability to attract leagues, which usually occur over the weekend, as a way to help local hotels thrive during a reduced occupancy period of the week. And they point to their partner’s stellar reputation and ability to provide a best-in-class experience in running an ice rink.
Topgolf provided a template response via email expressing their continued interest over the prospect of opening a Bay Area facility. Morgan Wallace, a senior communication specialist had this to say: We remain hopeful and excited about becoming a part of the Burlingame community. Topgolf offers a unique recreational activity for all ages and skill levels. We are committed to working hand-in-hand with the city and residents to be a great community partner and inspire connections.
And while Burlingame’s city staff recommended that negotiations with Topgolf commence immediately, enough effort and energy was placed in the process to have the City Council rethink that direction. Last week’s meeting did not bring the issue to a close, it made sure that other proposals continue to see the light of day and allow the public to provide its own perspective on what kind of a community benefit it wants. For those who care about public benefits, now may be a good time to have your voice heard.