Feature – Links to the world

Posted on Aug 1, 2014 :: Up Front
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer
Hole 7 at Whistling Straits, overlooking Lake Michigan, illustrates the classic Irish “links” course the Kohler property was modeled after. Whistling Straits hosts the PGA Championship next August. Advance-sale tickets are available through Aug. 10 and some corporate hospitality suite sponsorships are still available. Photo courtesy of Destination Kohler

Hole 7 at Whistling Straits, overlooking Lake Michigan, illustrates the classic Irish “links” course the Kohler property was modeled after. Whistling Straits hosts the PGA Championship next August. Advance-sale tickets are available through Aug. 10 and some corporate hospitality suite sponsorships are still available. Photo courtesy of Destination Kohler

One year from now, the international spotlight returns to Whistling Straits when the 97th PGA Championship comes to Kohler for the third time, Aug. 10-16. One of the most widely broadcasted sporting events in the world, the PGA plans 28 hours of live television coverage, reaching more than 500 million households in 200 countries.

Pre-registration for tickets, ensuring prime viewing spots, are on sale through Aug. 10, 2014. Regular tickets go on sale Aug. 11. Many of those prime spots will be in new locations, affording spectators the chance to get up close to the action while enjoying comfortable seating, rest rooms, concessions and more, says Jason Mengel, championship director for the PGA of America. 

Starting next spring, construction workers will transform the perimeter of the links overlooking Lake Michigan into a series of temporary spectator “villages” made up of climate-controlled chalets, each accommodating 50 to 100 guests. Corporate sponsorships for each of the chalets as well as tables within hospitality suites are selling fast, Mengel says.

“We’ve had two very successful PGAs in 2004 and 2010, but we are continually looking to improve things for our stakeholders and corporate clients,” Mengel says. “We have new viewing locations, new products, a new main entrance and merchandise tent.” 

By early July, 30 companies had committed to sponsor chalets planned for the ninth, 17th and 18th holes, Mengel says. Kohler recently announced it would add a chalet village on the 15th hole, which will allow another 10 companies the opportunity to sponsor. Some 40 more companies have committed to other sponsorships, including the 30-person Gene Sarazen Suites on the 16th hole, as well as tables for 10 in the Champion’s Club near the first hole. More than half of available sponsorships were sold out by July.

When Kohler hosted its first PGA event in 2004 – setting an all-time record for PGA ticket sales at the time — none of the suites were on the course, and in 2010, viewing areas along the links were limited, Mengel says. For 2015, course designer Pete Dye and the Kohler Company have engineered the edges of the golf course to accommodate more chalets to be built close to the action. (Corporate sponsors of the 2015 PGA will have first right of refusal to sponsor suites for the 43rd Ryder Cup, which comes to Kohler in 2020.)

Organizers expect each day of the PGA will draw about 35,000 people, or 225,000 over the course of the week, including practice rounds Monday through Wednesday and the championship Thursday through Sunday. Tickets start at $30 for practice rounds; each adult who purchases a ticket can bring up to four children ages 17 and under for free. Accommodations at Kohler hotels are already booked for the event next year by the PGA and spectators are expected to book hotels from Green Bay to Milwaukee, with shuttles transporting them daily to Whistling Straits.

As many as 1,100 jobs will be created as a result of the 2015 PGA, including everything from construction to accommodations, concessions and management. Since the 2010 PGA Championship, the growth in tourism has directly added $30 million in tourism spending to Sheboygan County and provides for an estimated 3,391 jobs.

The economic impact of the PGA is enormous, says Betsy Alles, executive director of the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce. 

“Early sponsorships and ticket sales are pointing to the most successful major golf event in history right here in this region,” Alles adds. “The State of Wisconsin, and the Lakeshore region in particular, are so fortunate to have a global company like Kohler making these kinds of investments in our collective future.”

Kohler will host its Taste of the PGA Championship event Sept. 16-18, featuring two fully-complete hospitality chalets at Whistling Straits and offering PGA 2015 corporate sponsors the chance to sample concessions, meet with interior designers and make decisions about plans to complete their chalets.

Events and attractions at Kohler shine the spotlight on the region and build awareness of the many other amenities of the region, Alles says.

“It’s not just the tournament attendees that fuel growth, it’s the exposure and the desire we try to plant with every visitor to come back to experience more here,” she says.

PGA 2015 website 

www.PGAChampionship.com

Tourism in Sheboygan County

Destination Kohler, with its golf courses, Kohler Waters Spa, hotels, restaurants and shops, makes an important impact on tourism in Sheboygan County. In 2013, the county captured $198.92 million in visitor spending and has steadily increased from $169.7 million in 2010, the last time the PGA was held at Kohler’s Whistling Straits. Tourism accounts for 3,391 equivalent full-time jobs in Sheboygan, with more than $71 million in labor income derived from the industry. 

– Source: Tourism Economics: An Oxford Company

Margaret LeBrun

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