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The pro shop, clubhouse and restaurant at The Lakes at El Segundo Golf Course. City leaders shot down plans, five years in the making, to build a high-tech, entertainment-oriented Topgolf driving range at the nine-hole course. 

The El Segundo City Council moved forward on Tuesday with two proposals—one from Topgolf and the other Drive Shack—to revitalize its struggling municipal golf course, The Lakes at El Segundo.

While the final decision has not been made, the fate of the driving range at The Lakes, a favorite practice facility for South Bay golfers, is virtually sealed as one becoming an arcade style venue with drinking and dining.

The decision came down to simple finances. With the golf course and driving range unsustainable and the city strapped like so many others to meet unfunded pension liabilities, a majority of the City Council supported finding a way to make the facility profitable.

Both plans call for a similar technology-centered driving range in a three-story 100-bay temperature controlled facility combining entertainment and dining with golf. Each would also preserve the golf course and rebuild the clubhouse.

The proposals from Topgolf and Drive Shack were chosen as the top two average picks out of a field of nine evaluated by a task force. Over the past six months, the task force comprised of six commissioners and committee members held 19 public meetings.

In response to a bid from the city, both developers suggest paying similar rent to the city—$1.5 million per year from Topgolf and $1.4 million from Drive Shack—while Topgolf proposed investing $40 million and Drive Shack $25 million.

To what extent either developer would meet additional criteria set forth by the council on Tuesday would be established in future public hearings, though some negotiations may occur in closed session.

Among the details yet to be ironed out include possible flexibility to renegotiate terms at some point, establishing a rental incentive program equal or greater to a set amount or a percentage of revenue and a stipulation the developer must build a new clubhouse.

Councilmember Chris Pomental, who supported moving forward with Topgolf and Drive Shack, said it was important the city stick firm to the most important aspects of the public facility.

“If there are things we believe are indispensable public benefits and we don’t think those are being met, then all we’ve wasted is time and we don’t have to put a single shovel in the ground,” Pomental said.

Pomental, a newly elected council member in April, sided with Mayor Drew Boyles and mayor pro tem Carol Pirsztuk in narrowing the field Tuesday to Topgolf and Drive Shack.

Scot Nicol, who was also newly elected in April, supported moving forward with two technology-centered proposals but did not support Drive Shack. He pointed out the scores were averaged, which did not necessarily best reflect the task force, and they might best consider Flying Tee, another similar proposal, instead.

“Drive Shack received no number one votes. Then why are we talking to them?” said Nicol, who also insisted the 9-hole par-3 golf course remain at the 24-acre site in perpetuity.

The vote on Tuesday stood in stark contrast to events last year when discussions between the City Council and Topgolf broke down in October. At that time, Boyles and Pirsztuk were the only two council members in support of Topgolf.

Councilmember Don Brann is still against Topgolf. Brann suggested he would not consider the company at all this time because their proposal was submitted 36 minutes past the 2 p.m. deadline.

“I’m only looking at eight proposals, the eight that were submitted on time,” Brann said, adding the one from Topgolf was “dead on arrival.”

With regards the late submission, the City Attorney determined Topgolf did not have a competitive advantage by submitting their proposal late because no others had been opened or viewed, and the task force unanimously voted to accept it, according to Meredith Petit, director of recreation and parks.

Among the other proposals submitted to the city included one from Billy Casper Golf that suggests investing $1.8 million and converting the first hole to a sports field, adding to the chipping area and building a new clubhouse and pro shop.

Another proposal from Sanford Ventures thought completely outside the box by proposing to eliminate the golf course in place of a multi-entertainment venue including an amphitheater.

The 24-acre site that makes up The Lakes was gifted to the city of El Segundo by Chevron Corporation. In exchange for the deed, the company retained the rights to approve any future development, just one last wrinkle in what has been a roughly six-year process.

Contact David Rosenfeld at David.Rosenfeld@TBRnews.com, or you can follow him on Twitter @RosenfeldReport.

Digital Editor

David has been working as a professional journalist for nearly 20 years in newspapers, magazines and websites. He's covered murder trials, interviewed governors and presidential candidates and once did a flip in a bi-plane for a story assignment.

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