How do you successfully bring a US entertainment concept to Europe? What remains, where is there a need for adaptation? And how can the client and construction company optimise the concept as a team? Topgolf in Oberhausen shows the way.
Where once a steelworks stood, today people stand to tee off. Greenreb AG opened continental Europe’s first Topgolf facility in Oberhausen in January 2022. First established in the USA, the Topgolf entertainment concept has been successfully implemented in Germany, with construction and operations optimised for local conditions – not least thanks to a collaborative, holistic partnership with Implenia. Further facilities in Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland are planned.
What is Topgolf?
In a small group, guests stand in the tee-off bay to hit their balls up to 200 metres over the green outdoor fairway and, ideally, onto one of the ten circular target greens. A screen tells them straight away how accurate their stroke was, with a digital system determining the precise landing position of the ball – which is fitted with a chip – and therefore the score. Players can enjoy a beer and burger in the cosy seating area between strokes – or wait until after the game to have a meal and drinks in one of three bars. The atmosphere at the Topgolf facility in Oberhausen is relaxed, the surroundings generous – just like in America.
Topgolf is a popular leisure pursuit in the United States, with around 40 percent of people aware of the brand. The concept is also established in the United Kingdom, Australia and Dubai. A total of 23 million guests visit one of the 70 Topgolf facilities every year. Up to now, continental Europe, however, has remained a Topgolf desert. David Speiser wanted to change that. In 2019, he joined up with Eric Grob to found Greenreb AG, in order to bring the entertainment concept to Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland as a franchise business. The Topgolf facility in Oberhausen is the first step towards making this vision a reality.
“The challenge in planning and building the facility lay in implementing the core of the American concept, while still adapting it to local conditions in terms of both construction and operation”
Topgolf European Pioneer David Speiser
How does the US concept fit into Europe?
“The challenge in planning and building the facility lay in implementing the core of the American concept, while still adapting it to local conditions in terms of both construction and operation,” explains David Speiser. In order to achieve this, he wanted a company that would supervise and implement the entire project holistically, from planning to construction. “I believe that giving full client responsibility to one company in partnerships like this can reduce risks and costs,” he says.
Ultimately, his choice was Implenia. “We quickly built up trust and, right from the very beginning, I could sense that they were very interested in fully understanding our project, which is quite unusual after all.” In order to familiarise themselves with the Topgolf concept, a team of experts put together by Implenia flew with the Greenreb team to the USA. As well as cementing the relationship, this boosted the conviction that the partnership had a future.
“We worked together in a spirit of trust and as equals.”
In this interview, European Topgolf pioneer David Speiser tells us why he wanted to bring the US entertainment concept to Europe and why the close cooperation with Implenia was crucial for a successful implementation.
First phase until the building application is ready
Marc Siepmann, Technical Lead at the Essen branch, was on board from the very beginning. “We divided the construction task into two phases: pre-construction and implementation. The client was able to opt out after the first phase,” he says. In the first phase – the pre-construction phase that ran from January to March 2021 – the Implenia planning team worked with Greenreb to bring the designs forward and get them ready for a building application. “This is the phase in which most can be changed, so it carries a huge responsibility.”
“We divided the construction task into two phases: pre-construction and implementation. The client was able to opt out after the first phase”
Marc Siepmann, Technical Lead at the Essen branch
Implenia carefully clarified the constraints, developed environmental and fire safety concepts, commissioned pollutant and grid surveys, and took care of bird protection requirements – all in collaboration with authorities, political committees and the fire service.
What's new at Topgolf in Germany?
This meant that, unlike in other franchise concepts, the facility in Oberhausen is not a carbon copy of an existing facility, but instead is a version developed especially for the location in close collaboration between the client and Implenia. The team continued to look for opportunities to adapt the construction measures to European standards and optimise operating costs. At the German facility, for example, the target greens were sloped in such a way that the balls roll off automatically and are therefore transported back to the tee-off bay more economically. In the USA, the balls are collected by staff – an option that would be impossible with Germany’s high labour costs.
The Topgolf project in Oberhausen
Client: Greenreb AG
The project: On the site of a former steelworks in Oberhausen, Implenia has planned and built a turnkey leisure facility with a total usable area of around 40,000 square metres for Topgolf licensee Greenreb. The site includes a three-storey building with a restaurant and three bars, 102 full-service tee-off bays, a 200-metre outdoor fairway, and more than 500 guest parking spaces.
Start: October 2020
Construction period for shell construction: 15 weeks
Implenia can draw not only on many years of experience and established processes, but also on a local network of specialists in every discipline, as a major advantage. “The earlier the right people can be brought to the table, the more purposefully the project can be set up; the more effective the phase before the planning application, the better the result.”
This approach made the Topgolf site in Oberhausen the fastest-built Topgolf site outside the USA, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and delays in the supply chain. And that is not all: it implemented creative, workable ideas that will pay off in the long term. For example, the Topgolf facility is the first in the world not to need a sprinkler system, as fire safety regulations were met in other ways. The fencing needs around half as many steel posts as comparable systems elsewhere. Last but not least, the facility was planned and built with prefabricated parts, which will help to implement further Topgolf sites in continental Europe.
LESS STEEL, LESS STAFF AND NO SPRINKLER SYSTEM
Marc Siepmann, Technical Manager of the Essen branch, tells how his team optimised the Topgolf facility in Oberhausen for the European market and why the 52-metre-high fence attracted the attention of animal and environmental protection authorities.
After all, Oberhausen is only the beginning. “Our ambition is to roll out the concept across continental Europe, and we are already working to develop the next sites,” says David Speiser. “With our first facility, we have proved that guests in continental Europe like the Topgolf concept.”
The first project in Oberhausen was comparable with constructing an aeroplane that was already taking off, continues Speiser. The next facilities will have even more potential for optimisation. “In our team, for example, there was no-one who had already led a Topgolf kitchen or who knew all the details of the Topgolf technology. Now we have staff with the right experience, who can tell us exactly what we need to do better at the next facility.”
Who should be at the round table?
The Greenreb CEO sees the team’s interdisciplinary make-up as the crucial factor in the success of a project like this. “Implenia really knows exactly how to bring in the right experts at all times.” In a future project, he continues, he would be in favour of expanding the round table earlier in order to bring responsibilities even closer together – for example in interior design and technical equipment. “Although Greenreb now has around 350 staff, we are still a start-up – and still rely on bringing together the complexity of a project like this and the responsibility with a strong partner that supervises every phase of the project,” says David Speiser.
TOPGOLF USA VS. EUROPE: WHERE ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
Shorter distances: The kitchen extends over two floors in the USA; in Europe it is compactly arranged on one floor
Technology vs. personnel: In the USA, people collect the balls; in Europe, they roll off on the slightly sloping pitch and are brought to the collection point by conveyor belt
Less steel: The fence system in Oberhausen gets by with half the steel posts
The construction method: The facility in Germany was planned and built with modular prefabricated elements, also with a view to further top golf facilities in Europe