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From TopGolf to Home Run Dugout, 'Eatertainment' Takes a Cue from Sports Tourism

20 Mar, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The combination of golf with a social venue and sports bar resulted in the wildly successful TopGolf, with franchises across the U.S. SPIN brought the bar and nightclub vibe to table tennis and has active locations in eight cities. Chicken N Pickle capitalized on the growing pickleball boom with locations in two states, and a third opening soon.

Now, it’s baseball’s turn at the plate. Home Run Dugout combines baseball amenities – pitching machines, games on TV and a variety of food – to allow athletes, wanna-bes, has-beens and dreamers to indulge their love of the game and their ability to socialize.

The first location will be in Round Rock, Texas, at Dell Diamond, home of the MiLB Round Rock Express. The Austin Chronicle notes that while in the pitching simulation, a machine pitches ground-up, soft-toss balls to the batter; using a touch-screen interface, spectators can safely direct pitches to any quadrant of the strike zone, which accommodates different heights and skill levels. After physically hitting the ball, there's also a built-in augmented reality experience that allows users to gamify the batting and simulate any MLB stadium. Basically, that means you, too, can ditch the helmet, forget the fouls, and strut in the glory of simulated home run success – all while having dinner and drinks.”

According to Home Run Dugout’s founders, Nick Hermandorfer and Tyler Bambrick, the mission of the organization, is to make baseball more accessible. It’s all part of the growing trend of what some are calling “eatertainment” – the combination of active play with dining and socializing.

Home Run Dugout is scheduled to open on April 9 – opening day for the Round Rock Express. The venue will also feature a fully stocked bar with specialty cocktails, Texas craft beers, and Texas wines, creating what Hermandorfer says is a location that is "perfect for a competitive office happy hour while also being romantic enough for date night.”

And at the heart of it all, his ideologies mirror those of sports tourism.

“We are seeing more and more people looking for activities to experience with their friends and family besides going to a bar and watching TV. We believe life is all about shared experiences, and we are confident that a little friendly competition (America's pastime in particular) is the best way to bring people together: over beers, laughter, and home runs," says Hermandorfer. "Plus, even if you want to sit it out, you can still enjoy a cold beverage and delicious food while heckling your friends and family at bat."

As the eatertainment trend – and sports tourism – continue to grow, count on seeing more venues proliferate, themed to various sports.

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