Golf legend Tony Jacklin has opened a golf range at the National Exhibition Centre which is part of plans to make it a total entertainment venue.
Visitors to the centre will be able to practise their swing at the £35,000 range, which was officially declared open by the Open Championship winner. The development is part of a wider £40 million strategy by NEC directors to turn it into a broader leisure and entertainment complex.
It comes days after administrators were called in to the driving range at Queslett Park, Great Barr.
The NEC’s managing director Kathryn James said the new range was an example of the flexibility offered by The NEC site which forms a key part of plans for expansion.
She added: “I am extremely pleased that we have been able to open this driving range, as it presents a fine example of the flexibility offered by The NEC site. Developments such as this bring us one step closer to the realisation of our master plan for our site to become a 24-hour, total entertainment experience.”
The new 25-bay driving range is adjacent to The NEC’s main entrance, close to the exhibition halls.
It has a floating hole-in-one facility, which will allow golfers to compete for prizes, and an on-site hire shop.
It comes after the NEC Group announced it would be opening its new-look £29 million LG Arena in October at an event featuring teen diva Miley Cyrus, rockers Green Day and 80s group Depeche Mode.
John Brown, of Birmingham-based Clevertee Golf, which installed the range, said he was confident it would prove popular. He said there were plans to expand the facility but declined to give further details.
Mr Brown said: “From the moment Cleverteegolf approached The NEC, we were convinced that the right decision had been taken.
“Working in conjunction with The NEC, we are already drawing up plans for further enhancement of the facility, and we hope to make an announcement regarding these in the very near future.”
The Birmingham Post reported earlier this month that the owners of the £6.5 million golfing complex on Queslett Park had gone into administration after a decline in bookings. Administrators from KPMG said it had been struggling against the decline in the credit markets.
The NEC group, which brings £1.3 billion of spending into the West Midlands every year and supports 22,000 jobs in the region, made 82 redundancies last month after being hit by the recession.
Chief operating officer John Hornby has warned that the group, which made operating profits of £36.5 million last year, expected to be “hit very hard” this financial year with smaller events replacing large-scale exhibitions as organisations rein in spending.