Here’s one of the many confusing things about the great golf wars in New Orleans: Why, exactly, was the public sector competing against a private project?
That was the reality behind the recent news that a new high-tech driving range and entertainment complex was planned for land owned by the state authority that runs the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, after a chain called Topgolf was set to receive an unpublicized no-bid contract.
The deal, which was negotiated but never approved after the board canceled a vote once it became public, came as a different driving range/entertainment complex, to be run by a company called Drive Shack, was already well in the works on the old Times-Picayune property on Howard Avenue. Construction on the Drive Shack site had not yet started, but site prep was happening and demolition of the old, graffiti-covered newspaper headquarters was supposedly imminent.
Plans for a high-tech driving range near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center are being “parked,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday.
When the convention center project was revealed, though, developers of the Drive Shack cried foul. In a letter to Mayor LaToya Cantrell, a company executive wrote that his firm would have been interested in the other location "but understood from (the center's) leadership that such a project was not part of the Convention Center master plan and should the center alter its master plan, such an opportunity would be (made available) through a competitive selection process."
Last week, the old TP building’s local owner, Joseph Jaeger Jr., said the proposed Topgolf deal has caused him to stop work on the Drive Shack range.
And now the convention center complex is off, according to none other than the governor of Louisiana, who controls a majority of appointments to the convention center authority.
Plans to convert the old Times-Picayune building on Howard Avenue into a Drive Shack high-tech driving range are in peril, according to an own…
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday the Topgolf idea is being “parked.”
“That’s not something we’re going to pursue right now. We may or may not come back to it later,” he said. “We have got a lot of critical things going on at the Convention Center. That one appears to be problematic.”
So the upshot: Originally, one high-tech driving range project was in the works. Then it looked like two were, just a couple of miles apart. As it stands now, maybe neither will happen, even though two sets of developers believe there’s demand in the area to support such a project.
Which raises another question: Is this really how capitalism is supposed work?