The Players Championship has ramped up its fan engagement offerings at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course that last year underwent a major renovation.
Organizers of the tournament, which starts Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., have rebranded and enlarged key hospitality areas and have overhauled the event’s merchandise space to improve the fan experience.
New this year is the rebranded and expanded two-story Benefactors Pavilion located near the course’s famed par-3 island green 17th hole. PGA Tour sponsor Michelob Ultra for the first time will put an Ultra Club on the first floor of the pavilion while Oakley sponsors the Oakley Lounge on the second floor. The pavilion has been expanded from around 18,000 square feet to 19,000 square feet with a new LED ribbon board installed inside the club.
Another major change is a renovated and enlarged PGA Tour Fan Shop that this year grows to 21,000 square feet from 18,000 square feet. The shop has added more local vendors, increased product customization offerings, and upgraded its lighting and flooring.
“We’ve completely revamped it,” said Jared Rice, executive director of The Players Championship.
Under Rice, the tournament also has increased the capacity of the premium, all-inclusive Players Club by 20 percent.
Rice would not disclose the number of Players Club tickets that were available, but all of them sold out. This year those tickets cost $6,000, up from $5,000 last year. The club, which provides access to the posh Stadium course clubhouse, is open from Tuesday-Sunday during the tournament. New this year in the club is the addition of celebrity chefs and a golf simulator of the famed 17th hole. They are the latest additions of the club, which debuted in 2016 and has grown every year since. “We want to make sure we are delivering on our promise of a true VIP experience,” Rice said.
A new top-level “Proud Partner” will debut this year at The Players with Chicago-based accounting firm Grant Thornton joining Optum and Morgan Stanley as the three top tournament sponsors. Grant Thornton replaces PwC. Those partnerships are typically seven-figure deals and include hospitality, on-course signage and a significant media presence during the tournament’s broadcast given that advertising is limited to Proud Partner-level sponsors.