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Golfers take their shots at unusual driving range

TAMPA — Munro Lortie, 13, likes golfing and plays about once a month. So he was eager to try out the giant driving range set up Friday in the 500 and 600 blocks of Franklin Street downtown.

Six cranes held up a net covering the range. Numbered pinatas filled with confetti and golf balls hung from the top and a gong was set up at the end. Golfers who broke a pinata or hit the gong would win a prize.

"I'm going for the 100 or the gong in the back," said Lortie, who was there with his father and cousin, in town from Atlanta for a wedding. "Line drives are my specialty."

The Tampa-based special events company Big City Events put up the range, which was open until 9 p.m. Friday. By Friday evening, more than 300 golfers had bought an $8 bucket of balls and taken a few swings. The company wants to put on more large-scale events, especially in the Franklin Street area, to help rebrand Tampa as a "cool city," said Ferdian Jap, a partner at Big City Events.

"This downtown area at night is kind of dead. There's a few restaurants here and there. We'd love to develop Franklin Street," Jap said.

He said city officials helped them pull off the unusual driving range, once the company explained its intentions. Mayor Bob Buckhorn came out to support the event and even hit a few balls.

The event also drew some neighbors. Ryan Garnder, 27, owner of creative co-op business 715 Franklin, noticed the setup from his nearby office.

"I saw it all day," he said while hitting a second bucket of balls. "It looked that awesome and it was that awesome."

Jap said his company would love to return the golf event in November 2013. Until then, he's taking suggestions of places and events he can host with the newly acquired netting. He's kicking around the idea of a March batting cage on Franklin Street. Other ideas can be sent via Twitter with the hashtag #tampateeoff.

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report.

Golfers take their shots at unusual driving range 12/14/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 14, 2012 11:14pm]
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