TIMNATH — Topgolf, familiar to the region for the tall poles and netting at its facility along the east side of Interstate 25 in Thornton, was identified Monday as the entity seeking to build a golf-themed entertainment center within the planned Ladera development southeast of I-25 and Harmony Road in Timnath.
Topgolf Callaway Brands, headquartered in Carlsbad, California, operates in 70 locations across the globe including sites in Thornton, Centennial and Colorado Springs.
Topgolf had been rumored since last fall to be the company that was seeking to build on 12 acres in Ladera, but officials of the town and developer had refused to confirm it because, according to Sheri Welch of property owner Connell LLC, “we had been in a nondisclosure agreement. We’re actually very excited about it.”
The site plan provided to Timnath planners by applicant TB Group on behalf of property owner Welch and Connell LLC, had depicted a project described only as an “outdoor recreation and golf entertainment center.”
Grant Nelson of Greenwood Village-based Republic Investment Group, who Connell had retained to help develop Ladera, added that Topgolf is “the best-in-class entertainment venue in the country right now.”
Property owners of the 240-acre site south of the Costco store on which Ladera’s residential and commercial development would rise introduced a team of Topgolf representatives at a community meeting held at the Colorado Youth Outdoors complex south of Timnath. The meeting was meant to display the preliminary site plans for Ladera, but many of the 146 people who attended were there to voice their opposition to the addition of a Topgolf facility.
Topgolf’s site plan for conceptual review seeks a height variance from the town’s 57½-foot structure-height limits. The concept sketch shows plans for a roughly 38,000-square-foot facility on nearly 12 acres including a 40-foot-high building and netting poles 156 feet high.
Those poles and nets fueled the ire of many nearby residents and have sparked a petition drive to put a measure on the town ballot that would prohibit fencing poles or material of any kind exceeding 65 feet tall.
Nelson emphasized that “the netting’s there to protect people from the ball flight. The netting’s there for people’s safety.”
He said Topgolf officials were at the meeting “to answer questions. Their PR department doesn’t make announcements until they’re fully approved. They came to answer questions, not make any formal announcement. We brought them here tonight so the residents of the town could get comfortable with them and ask their questions.”
But onlookers were far from comfortable.
A crowd six and seven deep including Brent Myers, dressed in a bald-eagle costume, barraged Topgolf officials with complaints about traffic, lights and noise the facility would generate – and especially the effect the facility’s tall poles and netting would have on the migratory birds that frequent the area around the nearby Cache la Poudre River.
Dr. Bill Jenkins, a member of the group Guide Our Growth Timnath that is collecting signatures to put the netting-height limit on the ballot, pointed out that the Topgolf site is near a congressionally designated National Heritage River area, the first west of the Mississippi, and is home to birds including great blue herons and American bald eagles. Those eagles are federally protected, Jenkins said, and “if an American bald eagle gets caught in your net and dies, it’s a $100,000 fine and a one-year term in jail. The second, I believe, is $250,000. It’s not a good business proposition.”
Scott Wetterling, Topgolf’s director of real-estate development, responded that “we do studies of natural habitats. We’re still working through the process with the city. The type of nets we use are the same as bird aviaries in zoos. It’s a very small pattern. If a bird does get caught in a net, we have a company-wide standard operating procedure to get the birds out of there safely.”
A woman in the crowd noted that aviary nets are for captive birds, not those flying at top speed into them, but Will Welch, a project manager contracted to his wife Sheri Welch’s family business, said the nets’ potential harm to birds “is not decided science.”
“We’re not anti-growth,” Jenkins told Wetterling. “We actually want growth. We want grocery stores, dental offices, restaurants, you name it. But I think the main concern that has residents upset is the proposal that there would be 156-foot-tall nets. The request to the town calls for 175-foot poles in the variance. It’s right in the flight path of these migrating birds. So how does that possibly fit in this part of town? Putting it to the north, where the river isn’t, where the wildlife area isn’t, where the national heritage area isn’t, I think would be much more welcome.”
Wetterling was also pelted with complaints about noise, including Topgolf’s request to have music until midnight. “We’re certainly going to hear sounds from our backyards,” Jenkins said.
Wetterling said Topgolf’s speakers would be pointed inward, “and if there is a local artist playing, they are required by company protocol to tie in to our speaker system. They’re not allowed to bring in their exterior speaker system purely for that reason so we can control the noise pollution outside the site and our property.”
He said lights would be on only the two-story, 40-foot-tall building, not on the poles or netting.
Asked whether passage of the height-limiting citizen initiative would derail the Topgolf project, Nelson said Ladera “can go ahead without Topgolf but we’re committed to seeing Topgolf through. They really pull in the other users. When we say we’re working with Topgolf on this site, other retailers stand up and take notice because they’re such a dynamic driver of other people who come to your site.”
If the initiative passes and Topgolf pulls out, he said, “we have other retailers we’re working with, and we’d have to reassess our plans.”
“We know the residents are concerned about height, but there are pictures out there that are exaggerated. The Thornton location sits on a hill and faces directly onto the highway. This is lower, with the cottonwoods along the river.”
Added Wetterling, “We’re still in our infancy and figuring out whether this will work. We’re still really on in the process. We recognize people’s concerns, and we’re working through the details.”