Tee time: Cal Skate goes for golf

Mike Seko’s latest business venture was inspired by a well-known Chico problem: the lack of fun things for teens and college students to do past sundown that do not involve alcohol. Seko’s plan: Bring back the classic American activity of miniature golf.

Chico has been without a mini-golf course since 1995, when Fun World closed.

Seko is already familiar with Chico’s entertainment needs. His first job as a teenager in the 1980s was at Cal Skate, and after a 13-year stint as an air traffic controller in the Bay Area he returned to Chico last year, purchasing Cal Skate along with business partner Daniel Larson.

Seko said construction on this new entertainment alternative will begin soon. The city’s Architectural Review Board OK’d the plans for the course alongside Cal Skate on Carmichael Drive. Seko’s excited about the diverse group his million-dollar course will be able to serve. “I think there is a lack of alcohol-free activity in Chico,” he said. “Cal Skate does well with elementary-school kids, but there hasn’t been a lot for high-school and college students to do at night.”

Seko expects to draw customers of all ages, however. Parents who already take advantage of Cal Skate to keep their children entertained when they are out of school will be able to increase the variety and time by taking advantage of golf, skate and batting cage packages.

Unlike many older courses around the state, the new course will not feature tacky or silly monuments. The course, to be constructed in a lush Alpine style, will make use of natural-looking plant, rock and water formations. “Research shows people lose interest in the old themes of windmills and dinosaurs,” Seko explained, adding that the new courses being designed today are just as fun and challenging as the old ones. The goal seems to be to create an environment that is both relaxing and aesthetically pleasing.

Weather permitting, the park will be open year-round, and prices can be expected to be in line with the cost of a movie ticket, plus or minus $1. Because of the location, the course will not have problems staying open until around midnight, which was part of what led to the demise of Fun World near the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. Also, unlike Fun World, the new course will boast ample parking, with at least 145 spots.

Groundbreaking on the $1.125 million project is expected within five to six weeks, with a grand opening around March, coinciding with Cal Skate’s 25th anniversary in Chico.