Unique Grand Sierra Resort driving range changing after 25 years

The driving range at Grand Sierra Resort

It's the end of an era -- changes are coming to a landmark driving range, unique to Reno. The Sierra Bay Aquarange sits on the shore of the Grand Sierra Resort's pond. Mark Arnold, the owner of the range said his 25-year lease is up and the resort isn't renewing it.

"It's been a great business to own, I've loved it," Arnold said. "The lease is over and the hotel has other plans. So, I know whatever they do out here, the GSR is going to be great. They've done great things inside the hotel, they've made great improvements to the pool and the showroom, I have no doubt they will do great things out here as well. "

A spokeswoman for the GSR said the resort plans to continue operating a driving range and will make some improvements.

Arnold said his business will close July 31.

"Yeah, I'm a little sad," he said.

It's been a staple of Reno for 25 years. Visitors, some celebrities who performed at the resort and locals love the laid-back atmosphere. There are no collared shirts required. Golfers can hack away with no judgement.

Justin Spalin has been coming to Sierra Bay since he was a kid. His grandmother introduced him.

"We would take the bus all the way into town, she taught me bowling and when this went in, she taught me golf. So, it was good memories with grandma and it's a staple to me and I like sharing it with everybody," Spalin said. "It is unique to Reno. It's very fun."

Golfers can launch a floating golf ball into the water. They can also smash out a few windows on a car that floats on an island. And golfers can also aim for targets on other islands and win prizes. Arnold said 14 people won trips to Hawaii for getting a hole in one on an island 200 yards away.

Arnold came up with the idea when he came back from a golf event in Florida where a vendor showed him a golf ball that could float in the water.

"I was flying in from the PGA show and saw this lake and thought 'that might be a cool thing,'" Arnold said.

In the early 1990s, Arnold pitched the golf idea to the resort, which was Bally's at the time. They passed on the idea. When it changed owners and became a Hilton, the managers loved the idea. In 1993, when Arnold was just 29 years old, he signed the 25-year contract.

Rambo Chau has been coming to the driving range for about a decade.

"It's a landmark. It's something you refer to if you're a local. 'Hey, GSR driving range.'"

It's unclear what the driving range will look like when the GSR takes it over and when it might reopen. But golfers will still be able to launch balls into the water and enjoy something unique to Reno.

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