Overriding objections from members of its longtime golf club, Montebello City Council members approved an agreement that would bring in TopGolf a Dallas-based sports entertainment company, to revamp the city golf course and operate it.
The city would help the company obtain a $50 million bond issue to pay for a multifaceted, enhanced driving range complex at the 118-acre golf course, located at 988 Via San Clemente, as part of the agreement approved on a 5-0 vote on Wednesday, March 24.
TopGolf would pay the debt service on top of a 20-year lease that would increase from $375,000 in the second year of operation to more than $1.6 million in years 11 to 20.
Also included in the project would be three- and five-hole-loops, a nine-hole course and what city officials call an “18-hole experience. ” The latter would consist of going back and forth on the nine-hole course.
The proposed driving range complex building would include, among other things, various eating and drinking establishments.
Council members said TopGolf would raise Montebello’s profile and turn what is now a money-loser into an operation that makes money. The city golf course now owes nearly $2 million to its general fund.
“Top golf isn’t just another pitch and put,” Councilman David Torres said.
“It’s an entertainment destination with 60 locations, with cities such as Las Vegas, Atlanta, Portland, Orlando, Boston and Pittsburgh,” Torres said. “With this complex, you can take a swing while playing interactive games and eating great food and pick up a quick round while practicing a short game on an expansive putting green.”
The proposed improvements would be located in the northern portion of the golf course within an 18-acre area. The project would involve the construction of a new three-level indoor driving range building with approximately 102 hitting bays consisting of approximately 68,000 square feet of floor area.
The improvements would include the installation of new netting and poles, two high-definition digital screens oriented toward the driving range suites, the construction of a new surface parking area with 450 to 500 spaces, the construction of a new miniature golf operation and new outdoor seating, patio, and dining areas.
But members of the Montebello Golf Players Club say the plan would destroy the golf course by eliminating its 18-hole course and replacing it with a nine-hole version.
“Nine-hole golf courses are not desirable to play,” said board member Ronald Casillas. “The (financial) number produced by nine-hole courses annually is not even half of what 18-hole courses produce.
Casillas said instead of ripping up the 18-hole course, the city could use the existing driving range for TopGolf’s area.
“As golfers, we’re not for destroying a golf course in lieu of producing a Topgolf,” he said.
In addition, thanks to changes made about a year ago, the course now is near profitable, Casillas said.
Councilwoman Angie Jimenez said the council isn’t doing anything irresponsible.
“We heard from many residents… family members, 20-year-old, 30-year-olds, older folks who are ready to go from the 18-holes to the 9-holes,” Jimenez said. “This is an opportunity to come out and experience something new. This is a new day and something worth waiting for. This is a game changer.”
One of the many residents speaking in support was Robert Porttillo, a now-retired city employee, 56-year resident of Montebello and golfer.
“With this new project, I see substantial improvements both for golfers and the community. Portillo said. “I’m excited to see this new project go into development. I can’t wait to begin using it.”