Driv Golf Lounge & Brewhouse aims to be the newest competitor in the golf driving range and entertainment business, one currently dominated by Topgolf. If all goes according to plan, the Kansas City area would have the country’s second Driv location.
Driv (pronounced “drive”) is the $35 million entertainment anchor of a larger $134 million redevelopment plan of 58 acres of largely vacant ground in North Kansas City. The North Kansas City Council on Tuesday looked over a financing plan for the project, which includes a proposed mix of public incentives.
The concept is similar to Topgolf, which opened a location in Overland Park in 2015. At Topgolf, golfers hit shots at targets from two levels of driving range bays that resemble mini-lounges with televisions and food and drink service.
Francois Girard, managing director for Driv, said his concept would use a camera-based technology to track performance metrics — distance, trajectory and so on.
Girard said Driv’s technology outlay can capture data on all of a visitor’s shots from a driving bay. That, Girard said, would give Driv an edge on Topgolf, which gathers data on shots that manage to hit certain targets on the driving range.
Driv’s 66,000-square-foot location in North Kansas City also would include a standalone gastropub restaurant and a microbrewery.
“It’s not just standing around a bar,” Girard said. “It can be a destination for food and beverage on its own without having to rent a bay.”
Driv is a spinoff of Thinkwell Group, a Los Angeles-based design and production company that specializes in guest experiences at theme parks, museums and retail attractions. The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., which in October unveiled a $15 million renovation, is one of Thinkwell’s clients. Snow Park at Ski Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is another Thinkwell project.
Driv expects to open its first location in Wichita in 2018. The Wichita City Council last month approved a development agreement and a request for up to $29 million in sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds for Driv; now the development awaits authorization by the Kansas Commerce Department to use the bonds.
Girard said the company has private funding in place to launch the location in Wichita and what would be the second one in North Kansas City if both get all the necessary approvals. Driv is then pursuing a second round of private funding to try to launch 20 other locations around the United States.
Given Thinkwell’s location in Los Angeles and its far-flung portfolio of projects, why pick Kansas and Missouri for its first two locations, particularly when Topgolf already exists in Overland Park?
“The ones that are there are successful now,” Girard said. “The propensity for golf in the area is very high. There’s a good average disposable income as well that has been proven already. It’s pretty easy for us to make that investment without very much of a leap of faith.”
Thinkwell has also partnered with local developer Rick Worner, who last year was named the master developer of 58 acres of property at the southeast corner of Armour Road and Interstate 29/35 , where Driv would be built.
Driv would be in pursuit of its piece of the growing golf driving range and entertainment business.
Topgolf has established its presence in the business with 28 locations and another eight planned in the United States. EPR Properties, a real estate investment trust based in Kansas City, lists several Topgolf locations in its portfolio. Callaway Golf, another leading golf brand, has a stake in Topgolf.
A similar concept called Drive Shack, a partnership between Newcastle Investment Corporation and TaylorMade Golf Company, is set to make its debut in Orlando, Fla.