SBJ/April 30-May 6, 2012/Facilities

Masters sells out new hospitality location

Some of golf’s most expensive on-site hospitality tickets — to Berckmans Place at Augusta National — have sold out a year before the private club is scheduled to open.

The coveted Berckmans Place passes, which sold for $6,000 apiece, are good for a week at the Masters beginning in 2013. All 400 of them sold quickly, mostly to Augusta National members, tournament sponsors and other friends of the private club, industry sources said. Sales began in October and Augusta National offered a sneak preview earlier this month during the Masters.

The 90,000-square-foot Berckmans Place is near the fifth green and will have rich interior finishes and high-end food and beverage offerings.
Berckmans Place is a 90,000-square-foot permanent structure under construction near the fifth green on the perimeter of Augusta National’s property, between the golf course and Berckmans Road. It’s about a quarter finished, according to those who were given a tour during Masters week, and includes three levels.

One industry source described Berckmans Place as “very Masters-esque. The highest level of service.” When one executive had breakfast, left to watch golf and then returned for lunch at Berckmans, he was asked if he wanted the same table he had for breakfast. The staff remembered him from earlier in the day. “Every detail is covered,” the source said.

As guests came to Berckmans, they were greeted by Augusta National members, such as Jack Nicklaus, Lynn Swann and chairman Billy Payne. Those who toured the finished part of the permanent structure included high-level agency executives and marketing chiefs from Masters partners Rolex and IBM, among others.

“It is truly a luxury to have a permanent structure and build into it all of the requirements you want for your guests,” said Mimi Griffin, whose company, MSG Promotions, runs hospitality for the U.S. Open and several other events. “For years, you’ve heard about all of the different groups doing hospitality off-site at the Masters, so to be able to offer something like this on-site is great for their event.”

Despite the expensive price tag, sources who toured Berckmans Place said it wasn’t overpriced.

“It really wasn’t a matter of selling it,” one source said. “They already knew who they were going to invite.”

While the club has made several improvements to its on-site hospitality options in recent years, the majority of corporate hospitality has been executed away from the golf course by agencies like Intersport and its Double Eagle Club, and PrimeSport.

Payne said that Berckmans Place is the club’s response to requests from patrons and partners who wanted more upscale hospitality options on the course. Featuring traditional Southern architecture with white columns, rich interior finishes, and high-end food and beverage offerings, Berckmans Place will be the most lavish hospitality setting in golf, industry sources say.

“It’s reflective of the demand for this kind of product now,” said Roger Warren, president of Kiawah Island Golf Resort, where this year’s PGA Championship is being held.

Warren, the past president of the PGA of America, said that hospitality demands in golf are surging again after down years in 2009 and ’10, when the recession made businesses rethink their spending habits.

“When you have a product people want to be a part of [like Berckmans Place], you can get those numbers,” Warren said. “And I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.”

In recent years, Augusta National has added cabins just off the 10th hole for corporate partners IBM, Exxon and AT&T. Near the No. 1 fairway are the Magnolia Suites for CBS, Rolex and Mercedes-Benz. A new Members Retreat debuted this year between holes 13 and 14.

Berckmans Place, which will be concealed from view by trees along the edge and rear of the fifth hole, will offer several levels of food within the same building, from burgers to more upscale offerings.

Some of the revenue, Payne said, will go to the Masters Tournament Foundation.

Prices for hospitality at other major championships are not in the same range as the $6,000 required for a pass to Berckmans Place, except for selected premium passes to the Ryder Cup, which is played once every four years on U.S. soil.

This year’s Ryder Cup at Medinah, just outside of Chicago, is charging $235,000 for 50 people in a chalet, or about $4,700 per pass. Those prices are flat with what was charged the last time the Ryder Cup was held in the U.S. in 2008. A new offering this year is a 10-person table inside Medinah’s clubhouse for $65,000, or $6,500 each, with the room holding a capacity of 200 guests.
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