GreatLIFE North will be home to Toptracer, a division of Topgolf. It could be up and running by Memorial Day.
Rick Farrant, owner of Topeka's GreatLIFE facilities, has played Topgolf a few times himself.
"It's kind of the buzz thing right now," he said of the popular sports and entertainment attraction.
On a recent trip to Springfield, Mo., Farrant visited Backwoods Golf just outside the city with his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren and "just had a blast."
Backwoods is home to a Toptracer Range — a division of Topgolf that uses similar technology to simulate shots, allowing users to play golf games with friends or simply put their skills to the test.
"It was the exact same experience as being at Topgolf," Farrant said. "When I saw the facility (Backwoods) had and what we already have here, I said, 'Oh, we can do this.'"
So the next day, he signed up to bring Toptracer to Topeka, and by Memorial Day weekend, such a range could be ready for use by locals and visitors alike.
Couple hopes Toptracer will be tourist attraction
"Instead of people driving all the way to Kansas City, we hope people from Manhattan, Lawrence, Holton, Emporia will come here," Farrant said. "We hope it's going to be a tourist attraction."
He and his wife, Linda, are working to stand up Toptracer at GreatLIFE North, 350 N.E. US-24 Highway.
"All I think about are all the details that have to happen," Linda Farrant said. "Just getting the right furniture, getting the menus done. I just want it to be right. Give us a little time and be patient, but we're going to make this good."
According to Rick Farrant, GreatLIFE North will have about 30 Toptracer bays — 10 of which will be turf bays and 20 of which will be covered by an awning and feature mats typical of a Topgolf facility.
Each bay is expected to feature a seating area, including couches, a bar counter and stools. And if the Toptracer Range continues to be popular during winter months, Farrant expects to heat the bays.
"We're probably going to put in a couple fire pits," he said. "We'll have cornhole and Jenga and some other outdoor patio games."
He expects Toptracer to complement the miniature golf course already present at GreatLIFE North, and to make the experience more worthwhile for guests, the Farrants are working to stand up a full-service bar and kitchen there.
North Topeka facility will be sports, entertainment venue
Those additions are part of the couple's efforts to turn the North Topeka facility into a true sports and entertainment venue.
"That's what Topgolf is — it's entertainment," Rick Farrant said. "They do it well and have great ideas, so we're going to copy that as best we're able."
He said the exciting thing about Topgolf and its Toptracer subsidiary is that they appeal to a much broader demographic than the usual golf fanatics.
"Eight out of 10 people that go to Topgolf traditionally, aren't avid golfers," Farrant said. "It's a lot of kids and families and young people just looking for something fun to do."
Farrant said it may take some time to completely fulfill the vision, as he wants GreatLIFE North to be a first-class Toptracer facility.
He added that North Topeka is beginning to experience "a little bit of a rebirth," pointing to the GreatPLAY facility, 1936 N.W. Tyler St., that opened just before COVID-19 hit the Topeka area.
"We turned that into a family entertainment center, so we have trampolines in there. We have laser tag," he said. "We have a jungle gym. We have an arcade room. We have a fitness area. We've got an indoor pool. Outdoor, we have foot-golf, disc golf and a paintball arena."
He said many people don't know GreatPLAY exists, but he aims to turn that around. And between the two North Topeka facilities, Farrant hopes to make North Topeka — the area where he grew up — a place people want to be.
"Between that facility and this (GreatLIFE North) facility," he said, "I think we can really make North Topeka a place to go and have fun and be a very positive experience, versus maybe not so much in the past."