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Jim Mason's indoor sports simulator headed for public hearing in DeKalb

Mason’s sports simulator plan goes before commission Wednesday

DeKALB – Jim Mason thinks an indoor sports facility with big-screen digital golf simulators will draw more people to DeKalb on a yearly basis than Northern Illinois University football or basketball.

“It’s going to be so much fun for so many people,” Mason said Monday. “The big thing is, I think demand will be so high, the golf [simulators] could be open 24 hours a day.”

The facility plans are set for a public hearing 6 p.m. Wednesday in front of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission at the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St. With the commission’s approval, it would next go before the council.

Mason, DeKalb-based developer of Mason Properties, got the DeKalb city council to amend its liquor licensing requirements in February. The amendment allowed for the 11,890-square-foot property at 1500, 1502, and 1504 Sycamore Road, formerly a Finest Furniture store and professional suites, to serve alcohol and have five video gambling terminals. The business, dubbed Mason Indoor Golf DeKalb USA, would also have sports simulators and food, and allow patrons over and under 21 years of age. The ordinance is similar to mixed-age use for bowling alleys.

“The thing I found is that adults and children just don’t have anything to do [in DeKalb],” Mason said. “It’s a perfect use [for the space], it’s good for 365 days of the year.”

According to Principal Planner Dan Olson’s report, city staff are giving the plan a positive recommendation moving forward.

“It’s kind of a unique use,” Olson said Monday. “There’s nothing similar to [the proposal] in that area.”

City Manager Bill Nicklas said he agrees with Olson’s assessment.

“The developer has made changes in the plan to accommodate our concerns,” Nicklas said Monday. “It’s kind of like a bowling alley set-up where you have both underage and of-age persons participating in the entertainment, and under those circumstances you have to have some monitoring supervision of underage [people]. So [Mason] changed the layout to accommodate that.”

According to the floor plans, a staffed counter will be by the bar area to monitor patrons. Mason said he expects to employ five to 10 people to run the facility.

Mason’s also received support from a neighboring developer. Sunil Puri of First Midwest Group LLC wrote a letter of support to the commission. Puri wrote on behalf of DeKalb-Harlem LLC, the owner of DeKalb Shopping Center.

“As longtime owner of the DeKalb Shopping Center, we believe the proposal use will bring new customers and much-needed energy to the surrounding area,” Puri said in the letter. ​“We are very attuned to the economic struggles the aging commercial district has faced, and we feel this concept is one that is both creative and revitalizing.”

“There is an urgent need for new business given the number of vacancies in the area,” Puri’s letter continued. “It is important to explore new options, and the proposed use appears to be the type of destination that will bring more foot traffic to the area, which should also result in additional economic activity for the surrounding businesses.”

Gregory Clark, of the 1400 block of N. 14th St., also sent a citizen response form to the city in support of the project March 11, according to the commission agenda. Clark indicated a desire to learn more about alley access, parking, and noise.

The facility will have seven bays for the simulator terminals, 20 feet wide, 25 feet deep and 16 feet high, Mason has said.

Golfing will be offered exclusively on two of the simulators, and the remaining five will have golf, but also can take part in 12 other activities, Mason said, including soccer and baseball. There will be tables for patrons’ food and drinks. Space also will be available for private rental.

According to the developer proposal, the permitted hours for alcohol sales will be 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday. Mason intends to have the simulator space and pizza pickup available 24 hours a day.

There will also be a 54 person-seating area, part of the 3,360 square-foot video gambling, bar, and eating area. The simulators will take up 8,350 square feet of the layout, according to the commission agenda.

According to Olson’s staff review, the facility will require 166 parking spaces. There are 189 spaces from the lots in the shopping center.

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