Players Championship putting nearly $1M into amenities
Several new features at The Players Championship this year are part of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar initiative to make the tournament what its executive director calls the PGA Tour’s fan experience “showcase.”
The Players, owned and operated by the tour and played each year in May at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., is like any sporting event these days facing fierce competition for ticket sales and attendance from at-home viewing. To go head-to-head with the living-room experience, event Executive Director Matt Rapp said The Players has to work each year to keep is fans entertained, comfortable and well-fed.
The additional amenities at the 2013 tournament represent an investment of close to $1 million from the event and the tour, a sum greater than past years’ efforts. The enhancements include new food venues, permanent on-site restrooms, repaving the walkways on the course and widening the entryway to the main parking lot.
“This event has always been a showcase,” Rapp said, “but the focus of the showcase has been the player experience — what’s going on inside the ropes. But just as important is the fan experience, because the TV experience is getting so good.”
The tournament has grown every year since Rapp took the helm in 2010. Last year, he said, corporate sales were up 31 percent, and attendance was up 24 percent, leading to a record-setting $6.5 million raised for charity. Private venues for the 2013 tournament were sold out by last fall, causing the tournament to spend $20,000 leveling off a hill to create a flat surface where another chalet could be built on the 16th fairway. It’s likely, Rapp said, that 2014 will see vertical construction on the course, with stories being added to the chalets to accommodate the demand.
Last year, the tournament introduced Wine and Dine on Nine, a full bar that served heavy appetizers catered by restaurateur Matthew Medure on a patio overlooking the ninth hole. That was such a hit, Rapp said, that the concept has been expanded into a new venue, Taste of Jax, which will feature food from local names Indochine, Eleven South, Pele’s Wood Fire and a yet-to-be named fourth vendor.
“Soup to nuts,” Rapp said, “we’re looking at every possible area and trying to make continuous improvement with a clear eye toward the fan experience.”
Ashley Gurbal Kritzer writes for the Jacksonville Business Journal, an affiliated publication.