Local developer Paul Cownie is partnering with a North Dakota group to bring Suite Shots, a golf entertainment facility, to West Des Moines. Architectural rendering special to the Business Record

A golf entertainment facility with a 250-yard driving range is planned in West Des Moines near a recently completed recreation complex, the Business Record has learned.

Developer Paul Cownie is partnering with Fargo, N.D., developer Kevin Christianson to bring Suite Shots to a site south of Grand Avenue and west of Interstate Highway 35 in West Des Moines. (See map.) Cownie said the developers have a contract to purchase about 25 acres from Benjamin Lounsbury and Andrew Lounsbury.

"This concept has been talked about in this market for a long time, and now it’s coming," said Cownie, CEO of Des Moines Industrial LLC, which is developing the $25 million transload project in Des Moines and is also involved with several other projects in the Des Moines area.

"One of the positive byproducts of this pandemic is that golf became very popular," he said. "We think that this bodes well for this concept."

Suite Shots will include a 50,000-square-foot facility with a restaurant, bar and 60 climate-controlled bays. A putting green and simulators will be at the facility where guests can also be custom-fitted with golf clubs, buy or get clubs repaired, and get golf lessons.

Total capitalization of the project is estimated at about $26 million, Cownie said.

Cownie said he is in a 50-50 partnership with Christianson, who also is a partner in Suite Shots. Christianson Cos. is the project’s general contractor and is providing design services.

Suite Shots, which is opening its first facility in January in Fargo, will be powered by Toptracer Range technology that allows golfers to see real-time flight and distance of a ball after it is hit. Toptracer Range is owned by Top Golf Entertainment, the popular indoor golf venue that is found in large metropolitan cities in the U.S. and internationally.

"Top Golf isn’t necessarily looking to come into markets the size of a Fargo or Des Moines," said Mark Johnson, president and CEO of Suite Shots. "By offering Toptracer to groups like ours to apply it how we saw fit in our community – it was a great match."

Johnson said experts from Top Golf worked with backers of Suite Shots to design a facility.
However, several differences exist between Suite Shots and Top Golf, he said. Suite Shots will provide real golf balls to guests rather than limited-flight balls. Also, the first level of the facility will be geared toward golfers and include an indoor putting room with putt-view technology that illuminates the track the ball needs to follow to fall into the hole. Included on the first level will be a learning academy and simulators for golf and other activities.

The second and third floors will be geared to the growing entertainment side of golf, Johnson said. "There are folks who have been hesitant to take part in a golf [-centered] fundraising activity because of the time it takes to play or because they’d never played.

"We’ve broken down some of the barriers. Some of the folks that are having the most fun are non-golfers. This isn’t as intimidating as a golf course and it’s more time efficient than a golf course," Johnson said.

Suite Shots will be located in a rapidly growing area of West Des Moines. The city this fall opened its MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex at 6500 Grand Ave. that includes two ice rinks, a 150,000-square-foot fieldhouse, an esports center and outdoor turfs.

In addition, construction of Des Moines University’s new campus at 8025 Grand Ave. is underway and is expected to be completed by 2023. A two-story office building is under construction at 5754 Raccoon River Drive, just east of Des Moines Area Community College’s West Campus. A residential development that will include apartments is planned north of DMU’s campus.

The golf entertainment facility will be located on about 10 acres. Plans have not been disclosed about what could be on the remainder of the site.

"We think that this piece of ground is ideal" for Suite Shots, Cownie said. "It’s near a lot of developments already happening and its near the interstate. We really do think it’s the right place, and the right time for this to happen."

Construction is expected to begin in mid-2022 and be completed by summer of 2023. Before that can happen, the land needs to be rezoned and the site plan approved by various city groups.

"This is an aggressive timeline, but the fact that they’ve done this before and the city of West Des Moines is pretty efficient when it comes to their site plan approval process will allow this to get going soon," Cownie said.

Photo above: Construction of the Suite Shots in Fargo is nearing completion. The photo shows construction of the facility in June. Photo courtesy of Suite Shots

 

Growing interest in golf: By the numbers

36.9 million
The number of people ages 6 and older who played both on-course and off-course golf in 2020. 24.8 million played on a golf course; 12.1 million participated in off-course golf activities like driving ranges, indoor golf simulators or golf entertainment venues.

5.9 million

The number of 18-to-34-year-olds who played golf on a course in 2020. The age group is one of golf’s biggest customer segments.

5 million
The number of 18-to-34-year-olds who participated in off-course golf in 2020.

3 million
A record-setting number of people who played golf for the first time in 2020. In 2011, there were 1.5 million new golfers.

Source: National Golf Foundation