Will Topgolf revitalize San Jose’s ‘forgotten stepchild’ of Alviso?
Travis Miller, manager of operations at Topgolf in Alviso. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Alviso, despite its quaint small-town charm, isn’t primed as a go-to destination as much as neighboring Willow Glen or downtown San Jose. One San Jose councilmember even called it the “forgotten stepchild” of the city.

Topgolf San Jose, a gleaming multi-story golf entertainment center, looks to change that.

“This is historic,” said Richard Santos, a longtime Alviso resident who now represents the neighborhood on the Santa Clara Valley Water District. “But most importantly, (Topgolf) has tried to cut down on pollution. You’re going to have people visiting, bringing in money to the community, getting paved streets, getting gutters put in.”

Once the city is out of the pandemic, officials expect Topgolf to bring around 500,000 visitors annually, a massive economic benefit to Alviso. The facility is also looking to partner with local charities, such as the Boys and Girls Club, for fundraisers. It’s already seen a steady stream of customers, with golfing bays booked a week in advance since opening Friday.

Alviso went through a revitalization of sorts in recent years, with companies such as Dell and TiVo opening offices south of the historic downtown, and tech giants HP and Google choosing Alviso for more San Jose-based offices. City officials and developers worked closely to preserve the area’s history and respect the community’s wishes.

“We’ve really been able to work with the community closely in building and designing the venue,” said Travis Miller, director of operations for Topgolf San Jose. “The community leaders of this area were really supportive… We wanted to make sure it fits in with what everyone desired.”

A view from a golfing bay. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.
The view from a golfing bay. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Topgolf San Jose has three levels of entertainment totaling 83,000 square feet, with 120 golf bays spread across each floor. Each floor also has seating areas, large TVs and a bar. The second floor has a wine bar covering an entire wall. Groups can rent a hitting bay for $40-$60 for one-time use.

There are also efforts to go green: the building is LEED-certified, has built-in solar panels and stickers on exterior glass to protect migrating birds from flying into the building.

Topgolf San Jose will bring approximately 600 jobs to the area, according to city officials and Miller. Currently, the facility has approximately 420 workers.

An outdoor patio overlooks Alviso. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.
An outdoor patio overlooks Alviso. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Just across the street, there are still remnants of what the city hopes to solve with Topgolf: broken sofas, abandoned homes and empty streets. Alviso, once an independent town before residents voted narrowly in 1968 to join San Jose, was the city’s shipping port and transportation hub. But that declined in the late 19th century with the increased usage of rail. Alviso was snubbed when the railroad bypassed the community. It also endured massive flood damage to its 47 square miles in 1983.

The city promised residents amenities such as a community policing center and investment in services and parks. But according to Santos, the city “passed the buck” on Alviso for too long.

“The city of San Jose holds Willow Glen up in the air and Alviso down below,” Santos said. “Now we have some opportunity with Topgolf after 54 years.”

A view of the first-floor bar. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.
A view of the first-floor bar. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

While there are no easy solutions to revitalize the community, Councilmember David Cohen, whose district includes Alviso, is hopeful that Topgolf will bring jobs and help boost the local economy, including a small family-owned restaurant across the street in a residential neighborhood.

“It’s no secret that the residents of Alviso have felt neglected,” Cohen said. “I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the Alviso community. I’ve toured many of the problem areas with local leaders and residents and I’ve been working with my staff to create solutions with city departments.”

Inside Topgolf's pro shop. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.
Inside Topgolf’s pro shop. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Topgolf opened after a yearlong delay as construction stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Capacity is approximately 40% for now. It hopes to bring people of all stripes into Alviso, especially those who don’t golf. Along with bars and themed nights, management plans to have outdoor games including cornhole and Jenga on its patios to ensure families can enjoy the facility. City officials and Miller are counting on it.

“I don’t play golf at all, but my boyfriend does,” said Mayra, a patron at a golf bay alongside her boyfriend. She declined to give her last name. “We can play together. There’s a lot to do here regardless of your skill level.”

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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