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More than just mini golf: music, golf, virtual reality and more in a new family-oriented facility

More than just mini golf: music, golf, virtual reality and more in a new family-oriented facility

Dark years have passed for the children and families of the Ukiah area. With the demise of the bowling alley, rink and the Kidovation Fire, the options for outdoor family fun are slim.

Ukiah Resident Couple Longtime resident Ken McCormick and partner Essence Roberson are determined to change that. Within two weeks, the couple opened T-Up Mini Golf, revitalizing the former Sears building in Orchard Plaza Shopping Center.

He met Roberson and McCormick, both known locally for visual identity printing in San Francisco through the American Marketing Association, where McCormick was president and Roberson served on the board.

“We started looking for recession-proof businesses that thrive in a deteriorating economy and decided to set up a mini golf business in Ukiah,” says T-Up founder Roberson.

“I’ve spent 15 years in San Francisco working for a company. I’ve coordinated a lot of events that have included an indoor mini golf course. There are several releases all over San Francisco. When I moved here, I noticed a void in family activities,” Roberson explains.

In February, the team sent out a survey to social media, asking if a mini golf project would be a “want” or “need” in the Ukiah area.

“The response has been overwhelming. We received over 1,000 responses in two days. At this point, we’ve decided to get started,” says CEO McCormick.

Locating the right property was challenging. “At first, this building was a lot more space than we wanted it to take over, but then we decided to use the back space for special events,” McCormick says. The project has expanded to include a nine-hole mini golf course, an adult “T-Lounge”, VR golf, photo booths, private sponsorship opportunities, field trips and memberships.

“When we entered this building, I didn’t tell Essence that I wouldn’t be on it. I said to myself, ‘There’s no way.’ But Essence was prolific. I saw a filthy warehouse that needed thousands of dollars in work.

Their business model includes access to local sponsors, who receive one of nine holes named after their business and a hole specifically designed to display their work. To date, sponsors include Advantage Tow and Transportation, Mendocino Forest Products, Starz Gymnasium, Golden State Trust and Wills, and Days Inn. Additionally, the couple acknowledge Benjamin Moore Paints, who has donated nearly $5,000 in paints and stains, and Pinnacle Built, who provided the use of scaffolding, sanding materials, and specialized tools.

McCormick and Roberson complete their original designs for the nine openings, supervising a mural on one of the walls, completing furniture and decor in the Speakeasy-themed T-Lounge and creating spaces for other components due to arrive. “This is the first time Essence has used power tools, and they are quick to learn,” smiles McCormick, a finished carpenter.

“Mendocino Forest Products deserves a special thank you,” says Roberson. “They donated the highest quality redwood for the track rails and fixtures. They were amazing.”

Kristen and Matthew Galvin are new transplants to Ukiah from the Santa Cruz area, relocating to Ukiah for beauty, tranquility, and home prices. Kristen ran the Digital Arts Program as an employee of the University of California, Santa Cruz and her husband, Matthew, was the former audiovisual person at the San Jose Sharks. “We are the pariahs of Silicon Valley,” smiles Kristen, a mother of two. She and her husband read about the mini golf project and decided to get in touch with him. “We hope to provide interactive, high-tech entertainment services to increase the golf experience. What is great about Ukiah is that you can only do these things. There is room here to implement a clear vision.”

“With Kristen and Matthew’s expertise, we believe this course will surpass any mini golf course in the area, if not over the state and country,” McCormick says.

Memberships for families and individuals will be available. “You will definitely save families money by joining. Including fuel, six trips to T-Up equals one trip to Skandia. We know these are tough times, so we took that into account in terms of pricing,” continues Roberson, noting that it will be There are $5 “happy hour” T-times, where the first 250 charter members receive perks and special rates.

The T-Lounge is a private members-only lounge, but is available to families and the public for private events. “If my mom and dad wanted to come and pay for a day pass, they would be able to enjoy the lounge,” Roberson says.

The lounge has a heated seating area, a fully equipped dry bar area and karaoke with a green screen. “You’ll be able to upload a video of what you want when you’re performing,” Roberson says, noting that corporate parties and holidays are already booked.

“We plan to do music shows and comedy shows,” Roberson says. The pair linked up with local music legend Paola Samonti, who performed at T-Lounge for a minor opening. She smiles, “We heard Paula singing in Riveno and we were amazed.”

Each hole is 100 percent ADA accessible and will be open to the public on Sundays and Mondays, “primarily because there are very few businesses open on those days,” notes Roberson. Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be developed for the “T-League” for family groups and businesses to develop some healthy competition.

“Wednesdays will be dedicated to special events. Any person, group or company can hold a competition and the proceeds will go to a local organization.”

With DJ Booth, VR games Oculus 2 Metaverse and a photo booth, Roberson hopes to create a teen-friendly atmosphere. “We plan on playing golf all night for our teens in a safe environment, and we will definitely be releasing a different vibe on Friday and Saturday nights,” she smiles.

Since the building has been vacant for a decade, the surrounding area has developed what McCormick calls “independent pedestrians.”

“A lot of calls have been made to the Ukiah Police Department, but we have mitigated the issues. We will have security monitoring of the facade and perimeter of the building, so parents know their children are safe.” They have made requests to the city of Ukiah and the building owners for the back entrance gate of the shopping center to reduce gatherings in that area.

“I want parents to know this is a safe place where we take safety seriously,” Roberson says, noting that they use a check-in system similar to Chuck E Cheese. “You will be stamped when you arrive. All stamps must match. When parents spend their time in the lounge, they can rest assured that their children are safe.”

Virtual paddles allow visitors to experience 4,000 golf courses. “It’s a chance to try out that really expensive racket. You can play with partners and people from all over the world,” says Roberson. The nearest VR racket is in Santa Rosa.

T-Up plans a school program where teachers can use passes to get rewards incentives. The site will be available for school field trips and outings.

The course is considered medium term in terms of complexity.

“Kids will be able to handle the course, and pros with a problem will have fun with their short game,” Roberson says.

The Door Dash will be on site, so visitors can order and enjoy food in the lounge. In addition, there will be drinks, snacks and Marino’s pizza by the slice. They plan to install tables and canopies in the facade of the building, and perhaps even fireplaces for the winter months.

For the first 30 days, the couple worked about 12-16 hours per day. “We took a break on day 31 and haven’t had a break since. The water and the leaves are coming. We want T-Up to be an experience – to keep the decor dynamic. It’s been 60 hard days of hard work and we still have a lot to do.”

Roberson joined the board of directors of the Yukiya Boys and Girls Club in May. “Since then, we have co-sponsored Chili Cook Off, donated our portable course, and distributed batches of free passes.” A portion of the grand opening proceeds, coming in the coming weeks, will be donated to the club.

“We immerse T-Up Ukiah in the local community. This has a lot of appeal to me. I thought my heart was in San Francisco. Little did I know it was an hour and a half north,” concludes Roberson.

T-Up Mini Golf is located on 125 Orchard Ave. in Ukiah. For information, visit their website at https://www.tupminigolf.com/#/, their Facebook page: Log in to Facebook or phone (707) 918-7888.


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