OnCore Golf To Open $30 Million Sports Entertainment Complex In Buffalo, With More Planned – Forbes

OnCore Golf To Open $30 Million Sports Entertainment Complex In Buffalo, With More Planned - Forbes
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.

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. The project is fully funded and is expected to create between 400 and 500 jobs when it opens in 2021.

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 development group, which also includes former Carubba Collision CEO Joe Carubba and other strategic and financial partners, has been working quietly for more than five years to bring the new project to fruition. In late August, the group purchased the Kelly Island property at 145 Ganson St. from G.W. Burnett Trucking Co., paying $3.5 million for the site across the river from the Bison City Rod and Gun Club.

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, which are heated for year-round use.

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.

As for coping with seasonal snow in a city that averages north of 94 inches a year, Blakely said autonomous snow removal equipment will plow accumulation to the edges of the target area where specially-designed apertures will funnel it into a melting system.

There will also be “alternative experiences” for non-golfers, such as “augmented and mixed reality,” the developers said. Various other games – both for entertainment and for competition – will be shown on high-resolution monitors in each hitting bay. 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.

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 slap shots 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.

The entire complex, shaped like an enormous ship ready to set sail, will be supported on piers above a level of covered parking underneath, for 225 vehicles. Pedestrians in the parking area will be able to look up through the ceiling to see the balls coming onto the greens. Additional surface parking will also be available for another 125 spaces.

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.

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.

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 area is rapidly becoming a destination for sports, recreation, entertainment and dining, alongside the growing residential presence.

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.

“As a native of Western New York, a serial entrepreneur, a technology geek, and a sports enthusiast, I am delighted to be involved in the launch of this exceptional project,” Blakely said. “There is a lot of work ahead but we are all very excited about what the future holds for Kelly Island and the surrounding area.”

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

The property is located further down Ganson from RiverWorks, and closer to the Ohio Street intersection, near Silo City. Its also near the two new apartment buildings on Ohio, as well as Ellicott Development Co.s new Cooperage redevelopment, including Resurgence Brewing Co. and a new climbing gym.

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.

The elevated and extended “game board” will resemble a mix between a carnival display, a video game and a pinball machine. It will feature targets ranging from 50 yards to 170 yards from the hitting bays, plus a brightly lit back wall with additional  targets at distances up to 250 yards.

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.

Meanwhile, OnCore Buffalo officials are considering a range of other sports and entertainment ideas for the rest of the land, including year-round indoor surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding, as well as additional bays for simulated baseball, basketball, hockey and archery competitions.

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.

OnCore Buffalo represents the latest in a string of developments along Buffalos waterfront, particularly along the once-polluted Buffalo River, where environmentalists and city officials have worked to both restore the natural habitat and make Ohio Street more attractive for investment.

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. The project is fully funded and is expected to create between 400 and 500 jobs when it opens in 2021.

The project will encompass about four acres of a seven-acre brownfield parcel, leaving plenty of additional room for future development by the group, including along the Buffalo River itself, where boats might be able to dock alongside the concrete wall.

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.

“Its a big idea. This is a first for Buffalo,” Swift said. “We expect these to be built in multiple cities all over the country, and potentially globally. This is being built and tested for the first time here in Buffalo, which is really exciting.”

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, which are heated for year-round use.

The project is fully funded, and Blakely and Swift hope to start construction next year, with an opening in 2021. It will likely qualify for state brownfield tax credits, but the team is not seeking other public funding or support.

As for coping with seasonal snow in a city that averages north of 94 inches a year, Blakely said autonomous snow removal equipment will plow accumulation to the edges of the target area where specially-designed apertures will funnel it into a melting system.

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.

“Its a natural next step for the trajectory that Buffalo is on, and for where the Buffalo River is going,” Swift said. “These kinds of projects are going to keep coming. Its the wave of the future.”

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 slap shots 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.

Other downtown sites are under consideration for similar projects in Knoxville, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Phoenix, New York City, Denver and Washington D.C., the developers said.

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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