Explore Blooloop’s latest in-depth feature… delving into the depths of experiential attractions and who is coming out on top…
One of the biggest trends to hit the attractions industry in recent years is competitive socialising. Essentially, competitive socialising attractions are places where people can gather with friends, family or colleagues and take part in a range of fun activities that put them against each other, like mini-golf, darts, shuffleboard, or even axe-throwing.
The experience also includes quality food and drinks, so guests can enjoy the fun with a cocktail in hand, or catch up with friends over a burger.
This trend also goes hand in hand with the rise of retailtainment, as these venues are an ideal choice to fill empty retail spaces in struggling high streets, or as an addition to a mall or shopping centre to drive more foot traffic through the doors.
But why is this sector booming, and what does it take to make a successful competitive socialising experience? To find out more, we speak to Rod Morton, CEO of Greenspan Projects Ltd., a creative design and build specialist for the visitor attraction industry.
The appeal of competitive socialising
Greenspan has had a hand in several successful competitive socialising ventures, in both the UK and the US. In the last year, it has delivered projects for BigShots Golf USA, Drive Shack Inc.’s Puttery, Meadowhall’s Clubhouse, Gareth Bale’s Par 59 and ZipWorld, to name just a few.
Talking about the rise of competitive socialising and why he thinks the concept is a hit, Morton says:
“It’s also known as ‘Social Entertainment’ and it’s exactly that. It’s the new way of getting together with a group of friends in the way you might’ve done in a pub or bar. The eating and drinking continue, but this time involving a game of darts, mini golf or axe throwing!
“I think it’s gaining traction because it’s a much more enjoyable experience. You get the chance to create countless memories, whilst socialising with your friends.”
Creating award-winning attractions
Greenspan’s mission is to create award-winning attractions for its clients. Its team members come from a range of diverse backgrounds, enabling it to offer a wide collection of skills and experiences.
Speaking about how the firm can help to deliver competitive socialising concepts that are unique in such a booming sector, Morton says:
“Greenspan has the people and skillset to deliver turnkey competitive socialising venues. From darts and mini golf to full venue facilities and bar fit-outs, we aim to offer a one-stop-shop solution to our clients. We believe we can offer something unique through our creative design and build service. We start with design and establish a brand and identity, then shape the attraction for there.
“No one project is ever the same. We first look to understand our client’s needs and then bring a project together to suit their exact requirements. This enables our clients to have a personalised experience.”
Competitive socialising in the UK
A UK success story is Boom Battle Bar, which has now expanded all over the country. Boom Battle Bars bring the competitive socialising trend to the next level. Activities include karaoke, axe-throwing, shuffleboard, beer pong, electric darts and more, alongside quality bar snacks and drinks.
“Boom Battle Bar is a great example of a unique and one-of-a-kind venue,” explains Morton. “They focus hard on their brand offering a consistent experience throughout their ever-expanding venues.
“We were privileged to be contracted to design and build the mini golf attractions and other non-golf games across multiple sites. Featuring games involving a baseball cage, mini golf putting around skate ramps, BMX bikes and slingshots… it’s very unique!”
Celebrities endorse the trend
Celebrities are getting in on the act too. For instance, in the UK, football superstar Gareth Bale has his own competitive socialising brand. Par 59 is a new partnership between Bale‘s Elevens Group and The DEPOT, Cardiff’s innovative events firm. Par 59, a sleek new premier bar experience with a twist, debuted in Cardiff and has since opened a second venue in Bristol. Here, there are two 9-hole mini golf courses, each with a colourful flair.
The courses weave through the heart of the venue and feature nostalgic prompts, different challenges and Par 59-esque props. Visitors can play through in groups, or as a pair, while enjoying a delicious drink from the bar. The courses include bespoke finished golf holes, colourful artificial grass, bright LED lighting, special FX and highly detailed props, in keeping with the overall theme.
“Par 59 is a great venue,” says Morton. “I particularly like the fact it’s so premium. The golf, the food, the drinks – it all carries through a sense of class and style. Greenspan created and built the two 9-hole golf courses for Par 59, again a special unique project, just for them.”
Bringing the vision to life
Greenspan worked closely with the client to bring their vision to life, from the initial design concepts to the innovative props and completed sleek structures equipped with lighting and colour-changing golf cups. The result is an engaging and also highly-Instagrammable experience.
Jamie Humphrys, director of Par 59 says:
“Greenspan, to work with, has been amazing. We have a venue in Cardiff, and we really want to expand the brand, which we now have done with Bristol. Par 59, we feel, has a hold in the market as a premium venue yet from the ages of 18-80 years old we feel anyone can enjoy it – it’s a good atmosphere! We really like what Greenspan had put together in the past and the playability within Par 59 Bristol works amazingly for us.”
“I think the finishing holes are really special as well, what they have done with the lighting and infrastructure works really well. The feedback has been amazing too, it takes a good 45 minutes to play the courses and visitors have really enjoyed it. We’re really happy with what Greenspan has done for us.”
Greenspan brings a new competitive socialising experience to Sheffield’s Meadowhall
Meanwhile, up North, Clubhouse is a new nine-hole mini-golf experience at Meadowhall Shopping Centre, an iconic shopping and leisure destination for the UK city.
Clubhouse has taken up residence in a vacant retail unit in the shopping centre, which previously housed a Ronnie O’Sullivan’s memorabilia shop. It offers a range of popular activities, such as bowling, VR darts and arcade games, alongside the bespoke adventure golf course, designed by Greenspan. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of cocktails, craft beers, and street food-style sharing plates.
Each of the nine holes was designed and constructed to a sophisticated brief, with the addition of synthetic plant props. Offering a range of difficulties, each hole features the Clubhouse logo and is lit with warm LED lighting. In addition, for a stress-free guest experience, the holes include a digital scoring platform which allows groups of players to keep track of their scores, as well as personalising their score sheet with a selfie.
“This type of venue is an exciting design and build concept for Greenspan Projects, which has allowed for the complete overhaul of an entirely blank canvas,” says Morton.
Jack Pendlebury, director at Clubhouse, adds:
“It’s fantastic to see this exclusive new experience come to life at Meadowhall, and we can’t wait to see what the reaction is when people visit for the first time – it really is a great venue for having some fun with family and friends. Clubhouse is a great addition to our growing leisure options, and is the perfect place to head for an afternoon or evening out, or even to round off a shopping trip”
Storytelling is key
Elsewhere in the UK, Greenspan Projects has worked with Adventure Leisure to create a fully themed indoor adventure golf attraction for Mr Mulligan’s in Cheltenham’s Brewery Quarter.
Here, the firm used its extensive master planning experience to create the entrance lobby, landing area, reception, and all 36 holes. The task was to create a narrative centred on the persona of Mr Mulligan and his thrilling exploits and inventions. The team took care to include different levels of playability throughout the route and took inspiration for the plot and theming from works of classical literature and the heyday of exploration.
The theming and visual design process was intricately developed from initial sketches through to full 3D renders, to give visitors a fully themed experience and an immersive sense of discovery as they weave their way through the underwater and jungle landscape.
UV lighting effects, intricate rockwork, water, and smoke effects are among the theming elements, adding an element of surprise around every bend. In addition, one course is fully DDA compliant.
Greenspan’s competitive socialising projects in the US
Across the pond, Greenspan Project has also delivered a themed golf experience for Drive Shack Inc.’s Puttery.
Drive Shack Inc. owns and operates golf-related leisure and entertainment enterprises, and its mission is to connect people in a fun and innovative way. Puttery is the company’s most recent immersive putting concept, which brings a contemporary twist to the classic game, adding a vibrant environment and an engaging experience that takes visitors from one course to the next.
Each Puttery location combines distinctively themed nine-hole courses with lively bars and lounges where customers can hang out before, during, and after the game. It has two venues in Texas, as well as locations in Missouri, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and more.
“We are extremely excited and pleased to be working with Drive Shack Inc. in the design and build of their Puttery venues,” says Morton. “They have an amazing vision and are creating something different in this fast-growing world of social entertainment. They have a clear strategy and ‘look’ which is both appealing and highly Instagrammable.
“Our projects with Puttery have allowed for a real boost to the expansion of our business within the US. Subsequently, this has allowed us to invest in new people and additional production facilities at Greenspan Projects to support this growth.”
An ongoing partnership
Brook Tuffin, VP of sales at Greenspan, adds: “We first started speaking with Puttery about their concept in April 2021. A lot has happened since then – they’ve opened a total of six venues now, with four more in construction.
“Themes have been developing, and we are very proud of the Garage course in Pittsburgh that we developed all the way through from an initial theme idea, to the complete construction. Here you steer yourself through years of classic auto, whilst embracing the golden era of horsepower! As with all Puttery venues, the finishes throughout are stunning, the staff are fantastic, and the F&B offering is top drawer!”
Mike Chicoine, head of construction and project development for Drive Shack Inc.’s Puttery, says:
“With the countless number of “eatertainment” venues that have popped up over the past few years, it’s no secret that the competitive socialization scene is booming and here to stay. What makes Puttery stand out from the rest is the elevated design, luxurious décor, and careful attention to detail throughout our venues. We have high expectations, and Greenspan’s robust design and planning group has quickly adopted our program to become a key contributor in our Puttery builds.”
What’s next for Greenspan and the competitive socialising trend?
Following this raft of successful projects, the Greenspan team shows no signs of resting on its laurels, with many more competitive socialising projects in the pipeline.
“Well, it’s a busy time and we’ve got a lot on,” says Morton. “Puttstars in Peterborough, Mulligans in Norwich, and Clubhouse in Sheffield have all recently opened in the UK, as well as Putt Nation in Atlanta, Georgia, in the US. We are currently underway with competitive socialising projects in Milton Keynes, Portsmouth, East London, Glasgow, Mauritius, New York, and Egypt!”
“It’s extremely exciting, and the market certainly isn’t standing still. We’ve seen some different concepts over the last few months. At Greenspan, we are taking on a couple of exciting new products in the coming months, which I can’t reveal at this stage, but I think they are really going to shake up the world of social entertainment.”
When asked if he sees this trend continuing, as guests increasingly demand experiences over products, Morton says:
“Definitely! I can’t imagine going back to how it was before. Social entertainment is here to stay, and it will be the most innovative, most creative, and highest quality that will win.”