Real Estate & Construction  October 9, 2022

Details on presumed Topgolf facility in Timnath slowly emerge

Town eyes significant incentives to land development

TIMNATH — Like a chunked shot out of thick rough, details about plans for a new Topgolf facility in Timnath are dribbling into the fairway of the public sphere slowly.

The latest glimpse into what Dallas-based Topgolf Entertainment Group, which has Colorado locations in Thornton and Colorado Springs, has planned in Northern Colorado appeared in the last week or so on Timnath’s development-review website, but specifics remain scant.

The town-operated site indicates that a “site plan for conceptual review” has been provided to Timnath planners by applicant TB Group on behalf of property owner Sheri Welch and Connell LLC for a project described only as an “outdoor recreation and golf entertainment center.”

The vague details provided by the town do not specifically name that “outdoor recreation and golf entertainment center” as Topgolf, but that project is listed as being in the location that BizWest previously confirmed as the target site of the new facility, which is the roughly 240-acre Ladera development near the interchange of Harmony Road and Interstate 25.

“We’re in the very early, preliminary stages. We’re not necessarily approving a concept. It’s just a proposal submitted on behalf of the current property owner,” Timnath senior planner Kevin Koelbel told BizWest. “Then [town planners] review it against town codes and give comments on the conceptual drawing directly to the applicant for them to digest and decipher. Then it’s up to them whether they want to move forward or not. We should get that to them in the coming weeks.”

When asked whether he knows the submitted proposal to be on behalf of Topgolf, Koelbel said, “The application just says ‘outdoor recreation and golf entertainment center.’ That’s all they’ve provided to us.”

A conceptual site sketch for the “outdoor recreation and golf entertainment center” shows plans for a roughly 38,000-square-foot facility on nearly 12 acres.

The building would be 40 feet high with netting poles stretching 156 feet into the air.

The sketch also shows a roughly 15,000-square-foot mini-golf course adjacent to the Topgolf building.

Officials with both the town and with Topgolf have been less than forthcoming during the initial phases of the process to potentially bring the popular, electronically scored driving range, bar and restaurant concept to Timnath. 

Representatives of Topgolf, the project applicant, developer and property owners did not respond to requests for comment. 

Documents gathered this summer by BizWest through a Colorado Open Records Act request indicate that Timnath officials have been actively pursuing Topgolf for at least six months and have floated the proposal of a generous tax- and fee-incentive package to lure the popular venue to town.

Late last year, town officials received a petition, which was ultimately approved, for the organization of a Business Improvement District at Ladera, where Connell LLC is the developer, that establishes two new metro districts.

Topgolf Thornton
Topgolf operates two facilities in Colorado, including this one in Thornton. Lucas High/BizWest

The metro districts are expected to raise about $95 million to pay for public improvements at Ladera, Timnath documents show.

Timnath Town Council last year approved an ordinance granting a 50% sales tax credit for the development  that “shall remain in effect until the earlier of: a) the date that the Maximum Reimbursement Amount of $5,000,000 has been remitted to any combination of the Developer, the PIF Collection Agent, or any successor or assignee to the Developer or the PIF Collection Agent, or b) ten years after issuance of the first certificate of occupancy for the Ladera Property,” town documents show.

In a signed December 2021 letter to Topgolf real estate manager Jonathan Trenski, Timnath mayor Mark Soukup expressed his “sincerest desire by the Town of Timnath to join our community.”

Specifically, Soukup mentions the Ladera Development as a potential landing place for the new facility. Employees with Connell exchanged emails with town staff that also showed Ladera as the proposed location.

Soukup’s letter, which was drafted, reviewed and edited by Timnath town manager Aaron Adams, Public Works Department director Don Taranto, town attorney Lori Graham-West and Community Development Department director Matt Blakely, offered the company a series of proposals that included a 50% reduction on building and impact fees, “a sales tax shareback agreement for the Top Golf enterprise of ⅓ of the current 3% sales tax for 20 years,” a modification of the “the existing Ladera/Connell sales tax sharing agreement to eliminate the proposed Topgolf property so that only the share back agreement proposed above will pertain to the Topgolf property,” and “expedited entitlement processing.”

The letter, which describes Soukup as being “very excited” about the potential for a new Topgolf, notes that the full Timnath Town Council would have to sign off on the offer. 

BizWest was provided with several versions of the letter as it made its way through staff’s editing process. However, the substance remained the same across versions. 

Timnath town manager Aaron Adams was carbon-copied on the signed letter.

Graham, in her email exchanges with the other staffers responsible for helping draft the letter, expressed concerns about some of the proposed incentives.

In one note referencing the impact-fee reduction, she wrote, “I thought these were a ‘no-go.’ Your call of course.”

In a note added to one of the draft letters, Blakely wrote, “Not to complicate things too much, could we say that we would establish the value of a 50% reduction of building permit and impact fees and then provide that value as incentive to Top Golf? That would give us leeway in the manner of how to pass on those savings.”

This language did not make it onto the letter signed by Soukup.

Taranto responded to colleagues’ emails: “I understand your concern regarding the impact fees but I believe we can achieve the 50% goal in different ways but for this letter it is what we need to say.”

Town officials have said that no formal discussions have been held or decisions made regarding incentive offers. 

Specific details about the construction of the Topgolf facility were scant in the information provided by Timnath to BizWest, but emails were exchanged late last year between city staff and Grant Nelson with Republic Investment Group in Greenwood Village discussing real estate assessments for the other two Topgolf locations in Colorado. Nelson is listed on town documents as a board member for the Ladera Business Improvement District.

Executive sessions were held on the subject of Topgolf by Timnath Town Council twice last year, according to information provided by the town after BizWest’s public records request.

No information about those closed-door sessions has been made available, and the town also declined to provide two 2021 email exchanges from a “developer” that were “marked ‘confidential,’” Adams wrote in response to BizWest’s request.

After BizWest published its May story revealing the Timnath-Topgolf connection, the town launched a page on its website under the banner “Answering Questions: Potential Topgolf Development.” 

That page does not appear to have been updated since May 31 and, as of Sunday morning, still included the phrase: “The town does not currently have any plans to review.” This piece of information no longer appears to be accurate.

There is no mention on the “Answering Questions: Potential Topgolf Development” page of the “site plan for conceptual review” for an “outdoor recreation and golf entertainment center” that appears elsewhere on the Timnath town website. 

Internal emails provided to BizWest suggest that Timnath officials have anticipated pushback from the community to the Topgolf proposal.

Citing an email from a constituent who got wind of the project and had questions about the height of the proposed Topgolf facility, Soukup wrote to staffers in March that “we may have a greater protest on Top Golf than we have anticipated.”

That prediction was accurate. 

Upon learning of the Topgolf proposal over the summer, several local environmental and wildlife conservation and advocacy groups commissioned a study by Fort Collins-based environmental engineering consultancy EDM International Inc. on the potential impacts of the project. 

Summing up the study in a July letter to Timnath officials, the signatories — including representatives of the Fort Collins Audubon Society, Audubon Rockies, Colorado State University Field Ornithologists and the Colorado chapter of the International Dark-sky Association —  wrote that “our organizations are very concerned about the impacts that this facility will have on birds, which we believe could be quite high given the location under consideration.”

Timnath’s Topgolf facility “is being considered for location within a river corridor and wetland complex along the Cache la Poudre River, which supports an unusually high number of avian species — including several that are considered species of greatest conservation need by Colorado Parks and Wildlife,” the letter said. “Many ponds and reservoirs surround the site in all directions and the river is approximately 0.3 miles to the east. Multiple city of Fort Collins natural areas are located nearby on the west side of I-25 including Eagle View, Fossil Creek, and Arapaho Bend. These areas attract an unusually wide range of avian species because of the reservoirs and wetlands in a water-limited region.”

Specific concerns cited by the groups include:

  • The transparent golf safety netting that “could impede the flights of birds — resulting in collision and mortality.”
  • High-wattage spotlights. “Numerous studies — including leading edge research being conducted at Colorado State University — have proven that lights not only negatively impact birds during migration, but also can attract them thus causing them to collide with the illuminated buildings and other structures.”
  • Noise. “In addition to disturbances from noise-generating construction operations, Topgolf facilities are known to incorporate live or recorded music that could impact the wildlife surrounding the area.”

In addition to environmental concerns, locals have questioned whether a Topgolf is the best use for the site. Timnath has big-box retailers such as Costco and a Walmart Supercenter but lacks many grocery-store options, a common point of contention among locals who must cross I-25 to shop at King Soopers, Safeway or Trader Joe’s in Fort Collins.  

In a section of Timnath’s webpage about the Topgolf project subheadline “Why Topgolf and not a grocery store?” town officials wrote, “In short, it’s not the town’s decision, role, or authority to dictate to whom the landowner (in this case, Ladera) sells its property. To date, it is the town’s understanding that a grocer has not shown an interest in purchasing this property.”

Beyond Koelbel’s statement to BizWest that Timnath planners “should get [responses to conceptual plans back to Topgolf] in the coming weeks,” the timeline for the project’s public review, approval process and potential groundbreaking remains fuzzy.

“The town’s role is to evaluate the project through the development review process and let the developer and Topgolf present their own information on the project and make their case to the community,” Timnath’s website says. “The public will have many opportunities to evaluate the development and provide input.”

When the public will have those opportunities for input is unclear. 

BizWest reporter Dallas Heltzell contributed to this report.

Topgolf Thornton exterior
Topgolf’s Thornton location. The proposed facility in Timnath would include netting poles that would stretch 156 feet into the air. Lucas High/BizWest
Topgolf Thornton-2
Topgolf in Thornton. Lucas High/BizWest

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