Rooftop miniature golf is unique amenity for football players at the University of Illinois

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Adventure Golf Services (AGS) installed a rooftop miniature golf course atop the new Smith Football Center at the University of Illinois late last year and recently spoke with the general trades contractor and athletic department about the concept and execution of the project.

“I think it was Josh Whitman, our Director of Athletics, who had the idea for including a miniature golf course on the rooftop,” says Tim Knox, Assistant Athletic Director, Football Operations at the University of Illinois. “We were trying to maximize our space.

“On most buildings this would be just wasted space. We felt there was potential to use that space to expand the footprint of the building without expanding the building.”

“They were trying to be different from other universities.” adds Adam Hebert, Project Manager of the Petry Kuhne construction company who was awarded the General Trades contract for the project.

According to Hebert, adding a custom designed 9-hole miniature golf course to the rooftop of the new 112,000 square foot University of Illinois (U of I) Smith Football Center was a change-order to the original project, made possible by donations.

The entire rooftop was conceived as a player’s lounge for relaxation. It consists of the miniature golf course, a partially covered steel trellis with furniture underneath it, along with heaters. There is also a 3-sided enclosed building that has airplane-like doors that open to the kitchen sporting a 60-inch grill.

“It’s actually a pretty cool structure up there,” says Hebert.

While the $79.2 million complex was originally designed by Architect HTNB with world-class player amenities to impact recruiting and support a successful football program at the University of Illinois, the 9-hole miniature golf course was custom designed by Adventure Golf Services (AGS).

“We are seeing more interest and demand for miniature golf to be offered as an amenity from colleges and universities, not only from athletic departments, but also for upscale student housing,” says Scott Lundmark, President of Adventure Golf Services. “Our products are a perfect fit for fun activities to take a break from sports or studies, and can be designed to fit any space, theme and budget.”

AGS has more than 35 years’ experience designing and installing permanent, custom modular or portable miniature golf courses in places ranging from city / municipal parks, family entertainment centers (FEC’s) and commercial / resort building rooftops to cruise ship decks and shopping centers.

At the Smith Center, AGS supervised the installation of the 1,800 square foot miniature course using patented interlocking panels and anchoring the course to the roof pavers.

According to Hebert, AGS was “…extremely helpful…They were absolutely fantastic. (The client) wanted to know what the course was going to look like right away. When I asked for more detailed drawings, they supplied them without hesitation.”

“I think it turned out better than we thought it was going to be,” says Knox. “It was a concept and a drawing, but until you see it built, I don’t think we realized what we were getting. We didn’t give them very much space and they came up with something very useable. We’re really happy with the course.”

Hebert says the rooftop course at the Smith Football Center includes several obstacles players must shoot through, into or around to enhance the fun and playability of the course. Many of these obstacles incorporate some of the University’s extensive football heritage, including:

  • An old leather-style football helmet (nicknamed the Dick Butkus helmet)
  • An Illinois “I” bridge
  • Several footballs
  • The popular State Farm Center (a large indoor circular arena that hosts games for the Fighting Illini men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams)
  • A replica of the U of I Memorial football stadium pillars honoring the names of alumni killed in WWI.

AGS also supplied one of its custom equipment benches that was installed for putter and golf ball storage.

In addition to the miniature golf course, the facility includes five pools and two bowling alleys among its therapeutic and recreational amenities.

When completed last year, the new building became the largest football players’ complex in the Big Ten Conference.