The driving range and restaurant that Topgolf Entertainment Group plans to open in the Carillon Office Park is among the first of a new prototype that the Dallas company is building.
At the St. Petersburg Topgolf, there will be a focus on family-friendly activities, with significant improvements to lighting and sound systems to minimize the impact on people who live nearby, Todd Waldo, director of real estate development, said at a neighborhood meeting.
About 100 people turned out for the standing-room only meeting at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park Monday night. Most of the residents said they were opposed to the project and asked why Topgolf, a Dallas-based company with more than 50 locations across the U.S. and internationally, chose the site at the southwest corner of Fountain Parkway and Carillon Parkway, across the street from residential developments Back Bay and Saxony Place.
“Carillon is a great demonstration of live, work and play that is so popular in today’s developments,” said Eric Uebelhor, director of development services at Arco/Murray, the construction firm for the project.
“But you won’t live here. You’ll make money here, but you won’t live here,” said one resident, who did not give his name.
Another resident said two home sales in the nearby residential developments have fallen through since Topgolf announced its plans. Yet another resident said she loved Topgolf but added, “I just don’t know that I will love it 150 feet away from me.”
The project received site plan approval in May under an administrative process. A public hearing was not required because the zoning in Carillon already allows a business like Topgolf, Uebelhor said.
Still, the company made changes to its design after residents’ concerns were brought to its attention. Among those changes was a new orientation for the project, so that the building will shield an outdoor patio and entrance from the homes across the street. Topgolf also plans to exceed the landscaping requirements of the Carillon Property Owners Association to provide additional buffering along Carillon Parkway and along the southern edge of the “outfield” — the massive expanse into which players hit golf balls.
Waldo said the St. Pete project is an evolution of Topgolf’s design and differs from many existing Topgolf venues, including one in Brandon that borders Interstate 75 and the Selmon Expressway and opened in 2014.
“Most of the folks have probably been to our Brandon location. There are big differences between the two,” Waldo said. “We’ve made significant improvements to our lighting package, to our sound systems, to some of the amenities we have in the building as well, to provide a very safe environment, an all-inclusive environment and one that minimizes impact to area residents.”
Waldo, Uebelhor and Matt Smith, Topgolf director of real estate, addressed specific resident concerns, including:
Traffic. Most of the offices in Carillon draw the heaviest traffic between 7 and 9 a.m. and between 4 and 6 p.m. Topgolf’s peak hours are in the evening, at a slow and steady pace, and trip counts will fall well below the allotted number in the master development traffic plan, Uebelhor said.
Lighting. Older Topgolf venues had stadium lights mounted to the roof on poles. The company has retrofitted its entire portfolio and the standard lighting moving forward is 16 small LED strips mounted beneath the second and third level roof lines that point down toward the outfield. The company also plans to add glare shields to the lights and dim the outfield lights by 25 percent after 11 p.m. each night.
Sound. To cut noise, Topgolf plans a type of soundproofing, an acoustic sound spray. Speakers will be pointed inward, and outdoor music events will be limited to one- or two-person performances, with all music piped through the house speakers so it can be controlled. After 11 p.m., the speaker volume will be reduced 25 percent. The company said it would fully comply with St. Pete’s new noise ordinance.
Company officials also addressed questions about safety. Topgolf employs unarmed security guards all night to discourage rowdy behavior. If a golf ball goes over the net that is used to contain balls in the outfield, a chip inside will identify who hit the ball and the hitter would be held responsible for any damages.
Topgolf has faced neighborhood opposition before, including in Louisville, Kentucky, where residents filed suit to stop the project. A court ruled in July that it could go forward, according to the Courier-Journal.
About 30 percent of Topgolf’s existing venues are in mixed-use areas, Waldo said, with one in Roseville, California most similar to the St. Pete project. The Roseville Topgolf is within 300 feet of a residential community. The company recently tested sound levels at that venue and found them to be in compliance with requirements. There have been no complaints from residents there that Waldo said he knows about.
Carillon residents urged the company to speak to the homeowners associations in the area as they move forward.
Topgolf expects its permits to be approved in a week, with the new facility slated to open about a year after groundbreaking, Uebelhor said.