After a couple of false starts over the past few years, it looks like the new multimillion dollar golf entertainment complex just north of Greenwich Place finally is going to tee off. It just won’t be a DRIV Golf Lounge & Brewhouse or a Swings complex as once planned.
Springfield, Mo., businessman Tim O’Reilly is bringing a BigShots Golf franchise to the southeast corner of 29th North and Greenwich, which is across from the Stryker Sports Complex, along with a hotel.
“We think Wichita’s a great place to develop a concept like this,” O’Reilly says.
“It’s a restaurant and bar environment with an outdoor golf driving range on the back side with netting and golf holes. . . . It uses Doppler radar to track the balls.”
The concept is similar to the well-known Topgolf chain.
In 2016, Greenwich Place master developer Wichita Destination Developers announced plans for DRIV, but they never materialized.
Then last year, something called Swings Golf went before the planning commission for the same site. Nothing materialized there either.
O’Reilly says he first signed a deal with the Peoria, Ill., founders of BigShots. Then, ClubCorp, which operates golf courses and clubs internationally, purchased BigShots late last year.
With ClubCorp, O’Reilly says there is “an exceptional opportunity to drive” the BigShots brand.
He says Wichita players can interact with other BigShots players locally or at its sister sites, which so far includes one in Vero Beach, Fla. There are two other businesses that use Bigshots’ technology under a licensing agreement.
O’Reilly, who won’t say the size of the Wichita BigShots deal except that it will have 56 bays, also has a BigShots under construction in Springfield and another in Fort Worth. Wichita’s Crossland Construction is building that one. O’Reilly has worked with the company on hotels and restaurants as well.
He says BigShots has virtual reality courses and games, and it’s not simply about hitting balls into holes.
Plans are in the works now, which will take two to three months, and then an approximately nine-month construction period will start by sometime this spring.
So by about this time next year, BigShots should open.
O’Reilly says he likes the easy access and new development near the site, both for corporations and households. He says he also likes Wichita State University and Wichita’s growing downtown.
“It’s all a . . . good destination for this type of entertainment facility.”
O’Reilly knows Wichita in part through bringing his children here to play basketball and working with Crossland.
Along with BigShots, O’Reilly plans a 124-suite extended-stay hotel just to the south. It will be east of Surgicare of Wichita, which is along Greenwich.
He hasn’t settled on a hotel flag yet, but O’Reilly says he wants an extended-stay hotel because he thinks it will be good for both the corporate market and for families visiting Stryker and the nearby Wichita Sports Forum.
O’Reilly, whose grandfather and great-grandfather started the O’Reilly Auto Parts chain in 1957, first started work in his family’s warehouse at age 13. He jokes that they “may have broken some child labor laws.”
“It was a very small company back then.”
Now, there are more than 5,000 stores nationally.
“It’s been great to watch it grow,” O’Reilly says.
He does not work at the company.
“I’m a happy shareholder at this point.”
O’Reilly, who went to law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, had been an attorney who represented people in the hospitality business.
In 2006, he bought a DoubleTree in Springfield. He then started O’Reilly Hospitality Management.
“We’ve been building and renovating hotels and restaurants ever since.”
He has 35 now, most of which are hotels, and more than 1,600 employees. O’Reilly also has multiple hotels under construction.
He has flags under the Hilton, Marriott, IHG and Choice Hotels brands.
“We’re certainly looking for opportunities in the hospitality industry,” O’Reilly says.
He says he likes Wichita a lot, but the market is a bit saturated with hotels now.
“It would have to be the right . . . opportunity.”
Though he used to practice law 99% of the time and focus on hospitality 1% of his time — and now that ratio is reversed — O’Reilly says he isn’t sorry that he practiced law first.
“I gained a lot of valuable knowledge and insight.”
For example, he says, that includes “how to stay out of litigation.”
“But hospitality’s a lot more fun.”