It’s been a long front nine for Scott Hawrelechko. A few years ago, he proposed a new golf development that would allow links fans to play on their own fairway to heaven all year round.
Now that project, a domed 18-hole championship indoor golf course, is finally taking shape – but not in Edmonton or nearby Devon as originally envisaged.
Despite a slew of local investors – 160 shareholders who are primarily in Edmonton – the course will be built in Tunica, Miss., an area 30 minutes south of Memphis, Tenn., that is quickly becoming known as the casino capital of the south.
The reason for the switch in venues, said Hawrelechko, CEO of Edmonton-based Myriad World Resorts, is the addition of a casino and the availability of a Mississippi gaming licence. The casino covers any risk to investors should the golf course take time to become a financial success, he added.
|The proposed Myriad World Resorts of Tunica will give the Mississippi venture the world's first full-length indoor golf course.|
In the meantime, the project has been transformed from the concept of an indoor course and hotel into a much more massive development.
Billed as what will be the world’s largest indoor botanical resort and the world’s first full-length indoor golf course, the venture also includes a casino, a hotel, a convention centre and a waterpark, all on 540 acres of land.
It comes with a pricetag of $900 million US.
Construction is tentatively scheduled to start in spring 2005 and take 18 to 24 months, Hawrelechko said.
While the indoor course, surrounded by tropical vegetation, will be the resort’s centrepiece, it will be joined by an 80,000-sq.-ft. casino with 2,000 slot machines and 90 games tables; a 1,200-room hotel; a 374,000-sq.-ft. convention centre; an entertainment district geared toward Broadway-type shows; concerts and sporting events; and a five-acre waterpark similar to the one in West Edmonton Mall.
Myriad is also looking at adding a snow park, with manufactured snow, targets for snowballs and a sledding hill.
“I’m an Edmontonian,” said Hawrelechko, “and I would have loved to have seen the project built here. But I wasn’t disappointed because of the casino opportunity.”
That prospect emerged on June 16 when the Mississippi Gaming Commission voted to approve Myriad World Resorts of Tunica’s gaming site and site development plan. Myriad now has two years to begin operation of the Myriad Casino, which will join nine others already in Tunica.
But it’s the golf course that has Hawrelechko hooked. He still remembers that day when he first came up with the idea while playing on Edmonton’s Lewis Estates golf course. “The leaves were changing colours and I was thinking aloud to friends, and I said, ‘Can you imagine if this was inside?’ ” To make that dream a reality, the course will be housed under an air-supported cable structure constructed of a Teflon-coated material. Supported by steel cables and held in place by air pressure, at its highest point the dome will reach 122 metres into the air, ensuring an unimpeded indoor golf experience. The system is based on technology developed by Goodyear in the 1970s. The material covering the dome will allow light through for plants and grass to prosper.
“From Day 1, we believed it was going to happen,” said Grant Puddicombe of Sid Puddicombe Associates of Nisku, which has already drawn up a number of prior designs for the course. “It was not a matter of if, it was when.”
For Puddicombe, the objective is to take their golf-course design expertise and ensure that the Myriad project will feel like a traditional course. “Our challenge will be to make it so that you don’t notice a difference, so you don’t think you’re in Disneyland, and that you think you’re on a normal golf course hitting a golf ball.”
Puddicombe’s gut feeling was if the project was going to succeed, it would need a large population base to draw upon.
Tunica fulfils that with its proximity to Memphis and millions of more potential visitors within a one-day drive.
Myriad would also be located eight kilometres away from U.S. Interstate 69, a planned trade route that will connect Canada and Mexico through Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas. Currently I-69 stretches from the northeastern corner of Indianapolis, Ind., to the Canadian border at Port Huron, Mich.
Meanwhile, Hawrelechko hasn’t limited his sights to Tunica. He’s looking at taking his quest for year-round indoor golf courses to the next level.
“We’re very ambitious. We can see one (of these projects) in Edmonton, in Dubai and Chicago,” he said. “We’ve even received an inquiry from Beijing.”
(Laura Severs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)