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Topgolf scores $4.4M in tax breaks to tee up in Brighton

Rendering shows a two-story Topgolf in Little Rock, Arkansas similar in design to what is being proposed in Brighton. The left side of the building is illuminated in red. A white sign reading Topgolf is over the entryway with a putting green and flag in a badge-shaped design illuminated to the right of the front doors. Hitting bays and a high net are seen in the background.
Provided photo
The Topgolf in Little Rock, Arkansas, shown in the rendering, opened in December 2023, and is a similar design to what is being proposed in Brighton.

Brighton is one step closer to getting a Topgolf.

Monroe County’s Industrial Development Agency approved more than $4 million in tax breaks Tuesday for the two-story $40 million facility proposed to be built behind Costco in the CityGate complex off Westfall and East Henrietta roads.

Topgolf’s proposal calls for 80 hitting bays for high-tech driving range games, a full-service restaurant and bar and event space.

One of the hitting bays of the Topgolf in Little Rock, Arkansas shows bar-top tables and chairs in the foreground and a driving range or outfield in the background. The bay is covered and the green extends outward, illuminated at dusk. The Little Rock facility opened in December 2023, and is a similar model to the one proposed for Brighton.
Provided image
Architectural Photography by Michael Baxter, Baxter Imaging LLC
One of the hitting bays of the Topgolf in Little Rock, Arkansas, shows the seating and driving range or outfield. The Little Rock facility opened in December 2023, and is a similar model to the one proposed for Brighton.

"These are the types of amenities that we want here,” County Executive Adam Bello said after addressing the COMIDA board, advocating for the deal. “Rochester and Monroe County deserve nice things, too. And that's what Topgolf is.”

Topgolf projects it will draw 250,000 visitors a year — with one in five expected to come from outside of Greater Rochester. But the incentives package has drawn pushback.

“I don't think they proved that they need these dollars, nor do I think they proved that the benefits outweigh the costs,” said County Legislator Rachel Barnhart, D-Rochester. “If the majority are coming from Monroe County, these are people who are just not going to spend their money at other venues, such as restaurants and entertainment venues. That's not creating any wealth.”

The project promises to generate more than $1 million in additional property taxes over 10 years, and half a million more each year thereafter.

Brighton signed a separate agreement with Topgolf to ensure the town receives the financial equivalent of full taxation on the property.

The developments would be the first additions to the complex in years, and the first under the new owners.

“This isn’t a tax giveaway to Topgolf,” Bello told the board.

He added in a later interview: "You know, in New York state, there's a cost to doing business, right? And this is one of those costs that companies are looking for a reduction in — what they would otherwise pay in tax. But it's still more in tax than what's being paid today.”

Bello called the site “troubled,” noting it has been vacant for years and is a former landfill. Topgolf’s Todd Waldo also referred to the property as “blighted,” saying, “It comes with a lot of challenges ... it has significant environmental constraints.” He spoke about putting safeguards and controls in place to “make it a safe place to develop.”

The site encompasses former landfills for construction debris, sludge and ash, records show. Site testing has found no hazardous materials. The previous developer, the late Anthony Costello, had planned to build housing on the property.

Construction is estimated to take 10 to 12 months to complete. Once operational, the facility is expected to create more than 200 jobs.

This would be the company’s second location in New York state. The other is on Long Island. And it is one of several new developments planned for the CityGate property with others including a hotel and a Chipotle restaurant.

In the first hour of "Connections with Evan Dawson" on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, we discuss a plan to bring Topgolf to CityGate. The news has sparked debate over if the company should receive tax breaks and what kind of impact the project could have on the community.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.