Golf, hotel highlight proposed $30 million entertainment complex near RiverWorks – Buffalo News

Golf, hotel highlight proposed $30 million entertainment complex near RiverWorks - Buffalo News
OnCore Buffalo plans golf-themed sports complex on Ganson Street
OnCore Golf is the latest entrant into the ever-expanding golf-entertainment arena. The eight-year-old golf ball technology company revealed plans to build a $30 million sports and entertainment facility along the Buffalo River in its hometown of Buffalo, New York.

OnCore Buffalo will have similarities to the popular Topgolf venues: a three-tiered driving range designed for golfers and non-golfers alike, a bar area and various entertainment options. It will also incorporate other sports experiences – from virtual baseball, basketball and hockey to a possible indoor wave machine for surfing – intended to attract participation from a wide range of consumers.

The new facility focuses not only on hospitality and entertainment, but also on helping golfers to enhance their game. When completed, the new facility will feature a three-tiered golf driving range that includes state-of-the-art radar and camera systems in each hitting bay to help golfers track their balls, measure their swings and improve their overall play. The technology will offer full analyses of each shot, measuring both club and ball data like ball speed, swing speed, smash factor, distance, spin rate, spin angle, launch angle and apex. OnCore balls will be used.

Golf, hotel highlight proposed $30 million entertainment complex near RiverWorks

Were very excited to be able to bring this kind of golf and sports entertainment experience to an urban setting – the result of engineering and technology innovations that have been years in the making, said OnCore Golf co-founder Keith Blakely. In doing so, we hope to elevate interest in golf amongst a broad demographic and to enable partnerships with organizations with similar goals.

But the scale and uniqueness of the new project appears to take it to a new level. What makes it particularly unusual is the design that allows for a smaller physical presence than normally needed for golf-based entertainment, which makes them hard to locate in the middle of a city. The group noted that downtown sites are already under consideration for similar projects in Knoxville, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Phoenix, New York City, Denver and Washington D.C.

Built on a seven-acre property on Kelly Island, the Buffalo facility will feature a total of 72 hitting bays outfitted with OnCore-specific radar and camera technology thats similar to Trackman. A 120- to 160-room hotel is also part of the project, with the hotel rooms set to be built above the three tiers of hitting bays, as will dedicated event, banquet and meeting space.

For golf enthusiasts, each hitting bay will provide comprehensive data – both ball and club – including swing speed, ball speed, smash factor, distance, spin rate, launch angle, apex and more. Customers will also have the option of recording their swing and receiving instructional advice in real time, with all information saved and available for retrieval and review on mobile devices and a cloud-based website.

The range itself is elevated, a proprietary design that features targets at distances ranging from 50 to 170 yards. The back wall of the range has 250-yard targets. Customers will be able to play a variety of games, some competitive and others purely for enjoyment, that will be shown on the high-resolution monitors that are in each bay. There will be extensive food and beverage options throughout the facility, including service at the hitting bays. 

There will also be “alternative experiences” for non-golfers, such as “augmented and mixed reality,” according to a press release. Various other games – both for entertainment and for competition – will be shown on high-resolution monitors in each hitting bay. And plans include full-service food and beverage options at the hitting bays and throughout the complex – including self-service beer walls.

OnCore is known for its innovation in the golf world. In 2013, the company made waves by creating the first and only USGA-conforming hollow-metal-core ball. It developed plans for a Genius Ball with embedded GPS and shot-tracking technology (set for a 2020 launch) and has built a loyal following and garnered industry awards for its golf balls, including the ELIXR, AVANT and Caliber.

Formal plans have not yet been submitted to the city to start the municipal approval process. Developers will hold a neighborhood meeting “in the near future” for residents of the Old First Ward to learn more about the project. A separate project presentation and information-gathering meeting for the general public will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 9, at the Old First Ward Community Center.

There are alternatives for younger kids or those who might not hit the ball as well, including using augmented reality glasses and a hand-held phaser to shoot golf balls at targets – from Aliens to Pokemon characters — that seem to appear on the range.

It will feature a long driving range with 72 stacked hitting bays on a four-story structure, topped by a six-story hotel with at least 120 rooms, a sports bar and restaurant, and meeting space. The range, with 11 bright-red target greens, will be enclosed by a giant wall of fabric and netting to keep the balls inside, and to shield golfers from the elements.

Additional augmented and mixed-reality sports and activities will take place in separate simulator bays, with visitors able to throw balls at virtual batters, shoot basketballs through virtual hoops, take slapshots at virtual goaltenders, or shoot arrows at virtual targets. Other add-ons under consideration include skateboarding, a ski-training simulator and the wave machine for indoor surfing.

Its already fully funded, and Blakely and Swift hope to get a shovel in the ground next year, with an opening in 2021. As many as 500 full-time permanent jobs are expected to be created by the venture, which the developers hope will lure visitors from not only Western New York, but also regionally from Pennsylvania and Southern Ontario.

In an effort to encourage and expand golf participation among juniors, the headquarters of the First Tee of Western New York will eventually be brought into the facility at no cost. In total, the clubhouse for the OnCore Buffalo facility will be about 120,000 square feet.

Starting with Riverworks on Ganson several years ago, followed by a pair of new apartment buildings on Ohio, and more recently the additional spinoff projects on neighboring streets, the neighborhood is rapidly becoming a destination for sports, recreation, entertainment and dining, with a growing residential and office segment as well.

OnCore Buffalo is planned to be built on a brownfield, so there is remediation work to be done before construction can begin midway through 2020. The facility is expected to open in mid-2021.

The group that is planning a new entertainment complex on Ganson Street unveiled details Friday of the $30 million golf-focused project, which the developers – including OnCore Golf Technology Inc. CEO Keith Blakely and Buffalo RiverWorks co-founder Doug Swift – hope will set a new standard for such facilities worldwide.

Urban sites for other OnCore sports entertainment facilities are being targeted, among them Knoxville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Las Vegas; Phoenix; New York; Denver; and Washington. Because the physical footprint is smaller than similar competitors – its just over half the size of a typical 13-acre Topgolf facility, for example – the company is looking at city settings where theyre more accessible to a diverse customer base and where corporate and private events can be scheduled more conveniently during normal business hours.

Customers will be able to record their swing and get real-time instructional advice. And all of the information will be saved for customers to pull up later on mobile devices and online through a cloud-based website. Players will also be able to instantly broadcast and post to social media through built-in technology.

We feel that this facility is going to be one of a kind and a revolutionary standard going forward, Blakely said. It allows us to build in urban centers rather than far outside city centers.

Four to five more similar facilities could start development in the next few years, but Buffalo is the first step, and a natural fit as OnCores hometown.

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A rendering of the planned OnCore Buffalo sports entertainment facility that is scheduled to open in 2021.

OnCore Golf is the latest entrant into the ever-expanding golf-entertainment arena. The eight-year-old golf ball technology company revealed plans to build a $30 million sports and entertainment facility along the Buffalo River in its hometown of Buffalo, New York.

OnCore Buffalo will have similarities to the popular Topgolf venues: a three-tiered driving range designed for golfers and non-golfers alike, a bar area and various entertainment options. It will also incorporate other sports experiences – from virtual baseball, basketball and hockey to a possible indoor wave machine for surfing – intended to attract participation from a wide range of consumers.

Were very excited to be able to bring this kind of golf and sports entertainment experience to an urban setting – the result of engineering and technology innovations that have been years in the making, said OnCore Golf co-founder Keith Blakely. In doing so, we hope to elevate interest in golf amongst a broad demographic and to enable partnerships with organizations with similar goals.

Built on a seven-acre property on Kelly Island, the Buffalo facility will feature a total of 72 hitting bays outfitted with OnCore-specific radar and camera technology thats similar to Trackman. A 120- to 160-room hotel is also part of the project, with the hotel rooms set to be built above the three tiers of hitting bays, as will dedicated event, banquet and meeting space.

For golf enthusiasts, each hitting bay will provide comprehensive data – both ball and club – including swing speed, ball speed, smash factor, distance, spin rate, launch angle, apex and more. Customers will also have the option of recording their swing and receiving instructional advice in real time, with all information saved and available for retrieval and review on mobile devices and a cloud-based website.

The range itself is elevated, a proprietary design that features targets at distances ranging from 50 to 170 yards. The back wall of the range has 250-yard targets. Customers will be able to play a variety of games, some competitive and others purely for enjoyment, that will be shown on the high-resolution monitors that are in each bay. There will be extensive food and beverage options throughout the facility, including service at the hitting bays. 

OnCore is known for its innovation in the golf world. In 2013, the company made waves by creating the first and only USGA-conforming hollow-metal-core ball. It developed plans for a Genius Ball with embedded GPS and shot-tracking technology (set for a 2020 launch) and has built a loyal following and garnered industry awards for its golf balls, including the ELIXR, AVANT and Caliber.

There are alternatives for younger kids or those who might not hit the ball as well, including using augmented reality glasses and a hand-held phaser to shoot golf balls at targets – from Aliens to Pokemon characters — that seem to appear on the range.

Additional augmented and mixed-reality sports and activities will take place in separate simulator bays, with visitors able to throw balls at virtual batters, shoot basketballs through virtual hoops, take slapshots at virtual goaltenders, or shoot arrows at virtual targets. Other add-ons under consideration include skateboarding, a ski-training simulator and the wave machine for indoor surfing.

In an effort to encourage and expand golf participation among juniors, the headquarters of the First Tee of Western New York will eventually be brought into the facility at no cost. In total, the clubhouse for the OnCore Buffalo facility will be about 120,000 square feet.

OnCore Buffalo is planned to be built on a brownfield, so there is remediation work to be done before construction can begin midway through 2020. The facility is expected to open in mid-2021.

Urban sites for other OnCore sports entertainment facilities are being targeted, among them Knoxville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Las Vegas; Phoenix; New York; Denver; and Washington. Because the physical footprint is smaller than similar competitors – its just over half the size of a typical 13-acre Topgolf facility, for example – the company is looking at city settings where theyre more accessible to a diverse customer base and where corporate and private events can be scheduled more conveniently during normal business hours.

We feel that this facility is going to be one of a kind and a revolutionary standard going forward, Blakely said. It allows us to build in urban centers rather than far outside city centers.

Four to five more similar facilities could start development in the next few years, but Buffalo is the first step, and a natural fit as OnCores hometown.

Ive spent more than two decades in journalism, writing about sports and its prominent intersection with the business world while covering just about every major sportin…


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