SBJ/May 7-13, 2012/Facilities

With lounge, Players Championship gets hip

Matt Rapp, The Players Championship’s executive director, wants the new concession space near the famous 17th hole to remind fans of a New York-style lounge.

One obvious missing element will be the loud, thumping music. “Well, think New York lounge … on a golf course,” Rapp said.

Few will ever confuse the sleepy retirement area around Ponte Vedra, Fla., where the tour and its flagship tournament are based, with New York, but Nolet’s Silver Lounge is hoping to provide fans at The Players this week with a completely different feel than what they’re used to on a golf course. Only ticket holders 21 and older are allowed inside.

The new Nolet’s Silver Lounge at The Players Championship
Photo by: PGA TOUR
“It’s going to have a tricked-out bar and big comfortable couches,” Rapp said of the air-conditioned space inside Nolet’s.

Since the tournament moved out of its March date, when the weather in north Florida was far less predictable, to the warmer days of May, the PGA Tour has been challenged to keep fans cool in temperatures that often approach or exceed 90.

Rapp’s team created seven new fan areas last year, including the 10,000-square-foot, fully enclosed Stadium Village near the 18th green, the first climate-controlled space for spectators carrying regular tickets at The Players. Those types of air-conditioned giant tents are fairly rare on tour for fans without an upgraded pass.

The new Nolet-sponsored space will be the second air-conditioned space on the course that doesn’t require a premium ticket. Nolet’s lounge will be next to the covered, open-air Oasis at the par-3 17th hole. The concession areas around the 17th are always the busiest during the week, Rapp said.
These new areas are intended to be premium spaces without a premium cost. Any ticket holder of legal drinking age is permitted into Nolet’s.

The massive Stadium Village, near the 18th green, opened last year with Jeld-Wen, a tournament “proud”-partner, serving as title sponsor of the space. Jeld-Wen, however, didn’t return as the village’s title sponsor, or a tournament partner for that matter.

Jeld-Wen reached a mutual agreement with The Players Championship to end its status as a partner of the tournament a year early. The end of The Players Championship deal, however, does not affect Jeld-Wen’s position as a corporate partner of the PGA Tour.

But the loss of funding for the Stadium Village left the tournament with a need.

Instead of having one overall sponsor of the space, the tour found multiple sponsors, including Ketel One, Verizon, Charles Schwab, Nature Valley and Toyota to collectively cover the $400,000 price tag for construction of the tent and its operation.

Ketel One’s vodka bar will be a centerpiece of the area, along with Verizon’s social lounge that will include charging stations for mobile phones and Wi-Fi.

Ketel One vodka and Nolet gin are both produced in the Netherlands by the Nolet Distillery, and both brands are marketing partners with the tour.

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