PEORIA — When the BigShots Golf facility was announced last year, a grand new addition appeared to be headed down the fairway on its way to an area around the Louisville Slugger complex in Northwest Peoria.
More than 15 months later, and more than a year after construction was supposed to have begun, the project appears to have landed in the rough.
The BigShots site consists of an open field with only a sign, and a Facebook page provides scant details about the indoor entertainment complex with driving range, dining and other games.
Calls to the Turf Solutions Group, the Peoria firm that specializes in golf design and whose founding partner Jason Payne was one of the principal developers of BigShots, have gone unanswered. Louisville Slugger complex developer Mark Petersen, also involved in the development of the BigShots project, provided this response to an email inquiry: "I am not looking for it to be in the media at this time. We will do a press release in the fall."
A June 6 post on the BigShots Facebook page stated, "Thanks for being patient everyone. We're getting after it! We will update everyone soon on our complete construction schedule."
Meanwhile, the city of Peoria hasn't received any information on the project.
"No update from us. Nothing submitted in terms of plans or drawings," said assistant city manager Chris Setti.
Back in March 2016, Peoria City Council members cleared the way for the project by agreeing to annex the land into the city while granting a special use permit for it. Construction was initially reported to begin in the spring of 2016.
The BigShots approach looks to provide an alternative to a game that's been struggling — both locally and nationally. The Peoria Park District recently announced that taxpayers will subsidize more than $1 million of district golf offerings this year as interest in the sport continues to wane with rounds played on park district courses continuing to decline.
Nationally, the decline in golf's popularity has been noted by companies such as Dick's Sporting Goods, a firm that's called golf its "most challenging business," while cutting back on store space devoted to the sport.
While the traditional golf game has declined, driving ranges and golf entertainment centers have seen a revenue growth of 3 percent annually between 2011 and 2016, according to IBISWorld. The company's report stated that "time-strapped individuals" were now looking for more convenient ways to play golf.
That fits with the BigShots approach that seeks to appeal to both golfers and non-golfers alike with a two-story golf entertainment center open year-round with TVs, music, arcade games, meeting rooms with food and drink. Then-5th District City Councilman Casey Johnson last year estimated the project cost at between $5 million and $6 million.
While the BigShots website suggests a whole new entertainment option is coming to central Illinois, it won't be the first indoor golf facility. The Peoria Park District built a year-round practice facility at its Golf Learning Center, 7815 N. Radnor Road, in 1999. The driving range offers different hole layouts allowing players to simulate course shots.
But the BigShots approach emphasizes entertainment. "Instead of the traditional driving range mat in a 10 x 10 concrete slab with no place to sit, BigShots provides an oversized party bay complete with high-top tables, chairs for up to six people," the BigShots site noted.
A variety of simulated golf games are available under the BigShots formula — even playing on famous courses from across the nation.
"Technology will be the major driver in golf's makeover," said Chris Jones, the founder of Centerville, Utah-based TruGolf Indoor Golf Simulators. "Indoor golf on simulators can be quicker and more fun," he said.
Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or email@example.com. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/TarterSource.