University Turns Rooftop into Mini-Golf Playground
During the construction of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s new $79.2 million football training center, the project team pondered adding another sport to the facility, golf. Could the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center’s two-story building’s rooftop double as a miniature-golf course? Adventure Golf Services (AGS) scored when they successfully installed a nine-hole miniature-golf course atop the new football facility. Named “Illini Fields,” the rooftop course was made possible by donations. AGS worked with construction company Petry Kuhne to figure out how to install a safe miniature course on the roof.
“As for challenges, we needed to design nine fun holes and fit them within a particular space that had walls butting up to it,” says Scott Lundmark, president of AGS.
The 1,800-square-foot customized course opened in late 2019, themed to the university’s football program. It includes obstacles like an old leather-style football helmet and a replica of the pillars found at the university’s football stadium that honor alumni lost during World War I.
“We needed to be careful of using the right colors and font for anything depicting the ‘I’ block (the university’s logo), correct shapes of old classic helmets and footballs, along with the colonnades of the original stadium,” explains Lundmark. “[The course] is also for large football players, so we needed to make sure the props were sturdier than normal!”
“Illini Fields” is lightweight and utilizes a proprietary anchor system affixed to the roof’s pavers that safely can withstand hurricane-force winds. The course also features quick drainage, low maintenance, and self-serve putter/ball distribution.
The entire rooftop has become a player’s lounge that includes patio furniture, heaters for late-season use when Illinois’ temperatures dip in autumn, and an enclosed kitchen, complete with a grill—perfect for tailgating.
Tim Knox, the university’s assistant athletic director of athletics, football operations, says, “The athletes could see the work on it and its evolution. But having said that, because it was the last thing completed, it was like coming down the steps at Christmas and seeing a gift under the tree but not being able to enjoy it yet!”
As for the significance of the course and its potential, Lundmark believes there’s potential for additional universities to borrow a page from the global attractions industry’s playbook.
“I believe more and more universities/colleges want fun pastime activities for the general student population that they showcase in brochures and use as a marketing tool,” Lundmark says. “From an athletics perspective, many are investing more dollars in recreational and workout facilities for their athletes—neat, fun, safe, and clean areas where they can work out, study, and have fun with fellow athletes.”
Off campus, Lundmark says there are many more opportunities for miniature golf involving available rooftop spaces as owners and operators look to optimize real estate space. He says installing nine holes on the rooftop of a hotel, resort, bar, or restaurant can serve as a revenue generator, or as a marketable amenity for condominium and apartment complexes.