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Architectural photography of the Topgolf Tampa facility exterior. Jacksonville's location is scheduled to open Oct. 28.
Jax Daily Record Friday, Oct. 7, 201612:00 PM EST

Topgolf opening local venue Oct. 28

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Topgolf Jacksonville will tee off its St. Johns Town Center area entertainment venue Oct. 28, starting what it estimates will be a 10-year area economic impact of $250 million.

Operations director Joshua Zenner said Wednesday that Topgolf has hired 540 hourly associates and 30 salaried managers for the golf, food, game, music, meeting and entertainment center at 10531 Brightman Blvd.

Why Jacksonville and why that location?

Zenner said the city has attracted Amazon.com, Ikea and major businesses and also offers a strong concentration of millennials as well as affluent families.

Topgolf’s 180-foot poles and netting are highly visible along Interstate 295.

Zenner said the St. Johns Town Center area is one of the best drivers of business and the location offers high traffic and a strong business and retail concentration.

The 65,000-square-foot building will include a full-service scratch kitchen, three bars, a rooftop terrace and concert stage, and games that include billiards, corn hole and shuffleboard.

It also offers event space for meetings, parties, rehearsal dinners and other occasions for 12 to 200 people.

The 102 climate-controlled hitting bays can accommodate 10 people and up to six can play at one time, Zenner said.

Topgolf will supply the restricted golf balls as well as clubs, although customers can bring their own clubs.

Players hit golf balls that contain computer microchips that track the accuracy and distance of each shot and award points for hitting targets in the outfield.

Players need a membership playing card and pay hourly rates per bay. There also is a platinum membership that provides priority access and discounts.

It’s more than a driving range, Zenner told the Southside Business Men’s Club.

He said Topgolf is an entertainment destination whose bread-and-butter is the millennial generation that might take to the game and begin to patronize golf courses.

Topgolf found 53 percent of its customers are ages 18-35, the millennial generation. Another 32 percent are 35 and older and the other 15 percent are 17 and younger. More than two-thirds of customers are male.

Almost half — 45 percent — of patrons play traditional golf once a year or less. A third play monthly and almost a fourth play weekly.

The $25 million Jacksonville project is one of two in Florida. The first is in Tampa. A third is under construction in Orlando for completion in the last quarter of 2017.

Dallas-based Topgolf operates more than 30 venues worldwide.

Zenner said there would be some pre-opening events before Oct. 28.

Sweet Tomatoes closes restaurants

Sweet Tomatoes, whose parent company has filed for bankruptcy reorganization, closed its only two area restaurants Tuesday in the Regency area and Orange Park.

A spokesman said 57 jobs were cut, with 50 of those part-time hourly workers and the others in management.

“This was strictly a very difficult business decision and no reflection on the hard work and dedication of the Sweet Tomatoes teams in Jacksonville,” said spokesman Rick Van Warner.

He said under existing court orders related to the company’s financial restructuring, the parent company was not allowed to pay severance. Because there are no other Sweet Tomatoes in the area, transfer opportunities are very limited.

“We are trying to assist in any way possible to help employees find other jobs in the area,” Van Warner said.

Nation’s Restaurant News reported that San Diego-based Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. filed Monday for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. It operates 124 Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes locations.

It said it planned to close 20-30 underperforming locations and put itself up for sale, reported nrn.com.

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@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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