The first mention of utilizing Blue Wahoos Stadium as scaled-down version of Topgolf, where people hit golf balls at short-distance targets, was several years ago.
“But the big issue was the difficult logistics of trying to pull it off, trying find the right time in the middle of a baseball season,” said Marty Stanovich, executive director of the First Tee of Northwest Florida, who broached the idea back then to Blue Wahoos president Jonathan Griffith.
No such issue, of course, exists this year.
Hence, another first-time event occurs beginning Thursday with a four-day, family-fun “Eagles In The Outfield” experience at the bayfront ballpark. A sneak peak tryout for event sponsors and local media representatives was held Wednesday night.
From three different stations of tee areas, all located on the concourse behind right field and center field, groups strike wedge-club length shots at targets spaced 50 to 100 yards away toward the stadium infield.
“We put together a plan to do this during our events team meeting about two months ago,” said Kyle Williamson, the Blue Wahoos ticket operations manager who began playing golf at 20-years-old. “Only a few other teams have done this, so it is a way to keep using the ballpark and bring out kids.
“This is something anyone can do no matter your age and it should be a lot of fun.”
Shannon Reeves, the Blue Wahoos event sales manager suggested the idea for a try and it took off from that point.
Reservations have being taken for one-hour slots beginning Thursday at 12 p.m. Group rates are $120 for up to six plays, $80 for up to four.
In addition, on Thursday and Friday from 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m. there are per-person slots for singles players at $20, which includes a hot dog and soda.
What’s more, golfers who experience Eagles In the Outfield won’t be using your run-of-mill range golf balls.
Instead, thanks to PGA Tour star Bubba Watson, a Blue Wahoos co-owner and Pensacola Golf Center, there will be logo, top-of-line golf balls supplied by Titleist.
Prizes will be awarded for hitting targets, including a bronze gong, special target, which will be located 100 yards in the infield. There will also be a short mini-golf, putting area area for kids set up on the concourse, plus food and beverages will be available.
“I think it will be a fun experience for everyone,” said Holland Davidson, 15, a member of the First Tee of Northwest Florida and sophomore player on the Gulf Breeze High girls golf team.
Along with Adyson Illian, 15, a member of the Tate High girls team, the two players helped test out the concept in a trial run recently at the stadium. The two players each struck more than 50 shots and routinely dotted the areas around targets 75-100 yards away.
“I think just the idea of trying to whack the heck out of the ball and just go for it,” said Davidson, referring to the appeal for novice or experienced golfers.
“It will be good for people to experience this and so if they wanted to go to a Topgolf place, this will help make them able to see what it’s like,” Illian said.
Topgolf, which is a trademark brand, is located in 50 larger cities across the country, including Birmingham and Atlanta, and brings a party-style experience with food, beverage and night-time golf shots.
The Blue Wahoos will have Thursday and Friday nights for Eagles in the Outfield, then Saturday’s opportunities will give way to a movie and fireworks night at the ballpark.
“Anywhere I go that has a Topgolf, I will go and do it, because it’s so much fun,” Stanovich said. “The neat thing is to see so many people who are non-golfers and go to Topgolf and have so much fun. This is bringing a little of Togolf To Pensacola.
“One of the advantages we have here at the stadium is the room to have the different tee areas for age groups and skill levels. When you think of all the various things the Blue Wahoos are trying to do at the stadium, having something like this is a marriage made in heaven.”
Bill Vilona is a retired Pensacola News Journal sports columnist and current senior writer for Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Studer55. He can be reached at [email protected]
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Eagles In The Outfield golf experience.
WHEN: Thursday thru Sunday. Thursday and Friday times 12 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in one hour reservation slots. Saturday is 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday is 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Blue Wahoos Stadium in area behind right field and center field on the concourse and Winn-Dixie Party Deck.
COST: Reservations for groups up to six people are $120. Groups of up to four can purchase a group ticket for $80. Per-person tickets are available from 12 p.m-1 p.m. and 1:30-2:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday for $20 and will include a hotdog and soda.
FORMAT: The targets will be 50 yards, 75 yards and maximum 100 yards.
CLUBS: There will be golf clubs provided or people are encouraged to bring their own short-distance clubs, pitching wedge, sand wedge are enough.
RESERVATIONS: Available online through the Eagles In the Outfield page on BlueWahoos.com or call 850-934-8444 for more information.