Built with COVID-19 in mind: History buff planning WWII museum, mini golf in Buda

by Sahar Chmais

He had a dream and he is making it a reality; it was actually quite literally a dream that Brian McKinney dreamt, and he is taking that piece of his subconscious and implementing it in Buda.

McKinney, a history buff and the grandchild of a WWII veteran, sold his auto business to open up the first Memorial Miniature Golf and WWII Museum. He plans to set several records, such as the longest par five in miniature golf, sitting at 315 feet long, and opening this literally one-of-a-kind business. This for-profit business also plans to make donations to veteran organizations and to museums. And with a lot of 3.5 acres, there will be more to the playscape.

While many businesses are facing hardship due to COVID-19, especially arcades and play areas, it seems that McKinney’s idea might have a loophole around the pandemic.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” McKinney said, “especially during COVID. But I think we are creating a niche that doesn’t exist in the Hays community. Play areas are usually inside and dancing halls are closed.”

This outdoor mini-golf business model is designed spaciously and gives players their distance. According to McKinney, the closest people will be to one-another is about 20 to 30 feet when on the golf course.

“We’re building it with COVID-19 in mind,” McKinney said.

There are many outdoor activities such as a beer garden, a children’s playscape that looks like an airplane, which is open to the public, and other refreshment businesses for items like coffee and snow cones.

Besides the decorative parts of the course, such as WWII planes hanging from trees or posts and WWII vehicles staged around, the golf course itself will have WWII education immersed in every step. McKinney said he is looking at the Texas education curriculum to see what students are learning about. Every hole of the 18 holes will represent different stories from the war.

“We want to get school districts to come out,” McKinney told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “[Hays CISD] gave me a textbook to make sure we are hitting on the keywords and key topics the state wants to see.”

His goal is to reach out to school districts all over Central Texas.

Beyond the textbook education, the holes can be sponsored to recognize WWII veterans. After each 18 of the holes have been assigned to a veteran, the course will have a pathway between the holes with inscriptions of more veterans’ names and the units they served in, similar to the setup of the walk of fame.

The museum portion of the project will receive its memorabilia from other museums, and in exchange, McKinney said anytime someone donates money, it will go back to their partnered museums.

Every month, there will be a weekend when they will donate 10% of gross sales to a different veterans organization.

So far, McKinney said he has spoken with the VFW in Manchaca. They will put up a banner to bring awareness, plus one day a month, there will be a fundraiser hosted to raise donations.

McKinney said he has only spoken with the Manchaca location and has not been in touch with the VFW in Buda or Kyle.

Bruce White, the commander of the Buda VFW, said he has heard about this project and believes it’s a unique idea.

“The mini golf and events will help fund artifacts and history,” White said. “And it gives a non-museum type of venue, so people can get interested with the history.”

White said he would like to have some kind of a relationship with the owners, but has not had any contact. The VFW in Buda has a small museum and, because McKinney will also have a museum, White believes they can work together.

Since this is going to be a veterans museum, in White’s opinion, it would be beneficial to get veterans in the local area involved.

The spread of COVID-19 has made it difficult to reach out to many places, McKinney said. But construction is expected to start this week and the grand opening will either be during the winter break, or during President’s Day weekend.

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