Two reallocation requests for the ruined old club building in Gulf Breeze without legal personality went smoothly through the zoning board on May 13 and the county commission meeting on Thursday, paving the way for an interactive driving range and recreation center to move forward to opening from Crane to company Cove Boulevard.

All five commissioners unanimously approved developer Craig Payette’s rededication requests on Thursday evening. Applications included allowing a golf driving range and miniature golf course in a business district on the freeway, and increasing the height in the same district from 50 feet to 150 feet to include the driving range net.

“This is a ruined building that has been vacant for many years and (developer) Craig Payette is risking his finances to create a recreational facility for District 4 and the entire south end of the county,” said Colten, district 5 commissioner Wright before moving for approval.

Plans for a new recreation center:Top golf-style driving range, bowling alley and more planned for the old ‘club’ in Gulf Breeze

The club in its heyday was a members-only fitness center serving the South Santa Rosa County area with club swim teams, tennis tournaments, after-school care, and after-school activities. But the 45,000 square meter building has been vacant since 2016 and is now owned by the bank, which is patiently waiting for the right investor.

Payette is a first time entrepreneur and hopes to be that investor. He has another private investor and is putting all his dreams on the line for this new project. He sees it as an interactive driving range entertainment center, similar to a top golf concept, and as a mini golf lounge modeled on Popstroke. He also wants to get rid of the indoor and outdoor Olympic pools to make room for more mini golf courses, a bowling alley, an ax throwing area, and more.

Seeing the project from start to finish easily costs $ 15 million or more.

“That’s a hurdle,” Payette told the News Journal after Thursday night’s vote. “I still have a big hurdle ahead of me, which is funding, and to be honest, I couldn’t really tell you which direction this is going to take. It looks cheap now, but until we have all the numbers we won’t really know. “

Craig Payette points to tennis courts at the club in Gulf Breeze where he plans to set up a top golf-style driving range.

Payette said he met with architects, engineers and contractors Thursday morning to help make his dream come true. There are different designers for each of the different aspects of the center – an architect for the bowling alley, for example, is different from the architect for the driving range.

Previous efforts to transform the club:Efforts are being made to bring the old Gulf Breeze fitness center “The Club” back to life

Payette is excited and thrilled that the community seems excited too. Even he was surprised at how easily his deviation requests went through both the Zoning Board and the Board of County Commissioners, a rare opportunity for major developments in Santa Rosa County.

“I wasn’t expecting such an easy time. I expected that at least someone would be in the opposition, ”he said. “But I think since everyone knows what I want to do with the property, I think it’s a great idea and everyone is for it. Of course, I probably won’t get 100% support, there is always someone around, but it’s a relief to know that I have so much support in the community. “

Annie Blanks can be reached at or 850-435-8632.