An ambitious PGA professional has admitted he feels like ‘the cat who got the cream’ as he oversees a unique £7.5m golf and leisure facility near Hartlepool.
North-east of England native Craig Donaldson is the pro tasked with managing the project which is generating a stir around the town as the centre will be based around three giant Sport Domes shipped in from the USA.
The venture, which sees Donaldson working with successful local entrepreneur Brian Morton, whose other business interests include bars and hotels in the town, is relishing the opportunity to develop and launch the multi-million pound venue, which will be located in Seaton Carew.
“This will certainly have a massive ‘wow’ factor when the domes are in place and the facilities it will have. There is nothing like this out there in the country,” said the 39-year-old.
The development has hit top speed having recently received planning permission and plans to open its doors on 20 July to coincide with the 2012 Olympics.
At the heart of The Sports Dome facility is golf with its multitude of opportunities firmly focused on making it a family-friendly golf centre.
The golf dome, which is 2,500 sq.m., will comprise of four golf simulators for honing the game, one of which has 170 of the world’s best golf courses to play, a pitching area, indoor netted driving range and a nine-hole putting course. This is complemented by an outdoor ‘tri-golf’ nine-hole pitch and putt course, with Donaldson seeking the backing of the Golf Foundation.
He added: “I think this will be excellent for promoting golf and also a venue that will be great for being available all year round. In this part of the world, winter golf tends to be only for the diehards. This place will be ideal, especially for kids, to come and enjoy the game.
“I won’t be coaching as I will be overseeing the day-to-day operations once it is open. We’ll be looking for a team of golf professionals to come in and do the coaching. I’ll be going out and doing the leg work to drive the business, even though I would love to be in there delivering the coaching, I have to look at the much bigger picture.”
The bigger picture includes expanding the golfing opportunities beyond the facility as well as eventually opening up more Sports Domes centres across the country.
A tie-in has already been agreed with Hartlepool Golf Club, while Donaldson is also in discussions with Seaton Carew Golf Club. Partnerships with local hotels are also being explored to offer golf travel packages, to both amateurs and professionals.
Donaldson relishes the regular daily challenges and is full of enthusiasm for the impact the Sports Dome will have on golf, while he also recognises the changes it has had on his career since the days he began his training at Durham City two decades ago.
“I’m feeling like the cat that got the cream,” said Donaldson, who began playing golf as a boy with his granddad at Hartlepool Golf Club.
“I think this is an amazing project and a great story given my background as a PGA pro, as now I am putting together a huge leisure facility. I met Brian and we both shared the same visions, as this is something he has wanted to do for years.
“I’ve nearly 20 years experience as a pro and this is a chance to bring all that experience and knowledge together and put it to use on something totally different. I’ve designed it, will oversee it and I just think it will be an absolute winner.
“The way golf has evolved over the past few years it has taken a lot of bottle to go out there and see the bigger picture and to build something on the back of golf.
“This is the bigger picture and I can see how this could be rolled out across the country and open the game up for everyone.”
The complex will also have an additional dome, which will be home to six indoor five-a-side pitches, plus there will be an 80-station gymnasium, steam room and function room.
There is also the provision for a third dome to potentially be an ice rink making the Sports Dome the ultimate community and sports venue in the region.
For information see www.thesportsdomes.co.uk
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