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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

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A Digital Free Press examination of the golf coliseum TPC Scottsdale built

Photo of 16th hole coliseum at TPC Scottsdale
Why does the great Scottsdale golf coliseum — one that attracts hundreds of thousands of patrons every year — come down every year? The Arizona Digital Free Press reached out to tourism experts, event promoters and the city of Scottsdale to find out why. (Photos: Analisa Shah for Experience Scottsdale/DigitalFreePress.com)

A look at why the 16th hole coliseum is temporary at TPC Scottsdale

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

They came from far and wide to see the coliseum Scottsdale built.

Akin to a spectacle reminiscent of what it could have looked like during the time of Julius Caesar is a three-story monument meant to celebrate golf — in particular the PGA Tour — but walking the grounds of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale last week it becomes apparent the coliseum Scottsdale built has come to represent one of tourism’s greatest successes.

The event itself serves as a monumental philanthropic driver for the Phoenix Thunderbirds, local hosts of the event, who provide millions of dollars in charitable donations from proceeds of ‘the greatest show on grass.’

But why does the great Scottsdale golf coliseum — one that attracts hundreds of thousands of patrons every year — come down every year?

The Arizona Digital Free Press reached out to tourism experts, event promoters and the city of Scottsdale to find out why.

Chris Walsh, Parks and Recreation manager at the city of Scottsdale, reports myriad factors play a role in why the coliseum golf tourism built is a temporary structure.

“There are a number of factors involved in why the structures are temporary,” he said.

“A permanent structure would be extremely costly to build as there are different building requirements, utilities, annual upkeep, etc. Additionally, much of the golf course sits on Bureau of Reclamation property in which the city has a recreational land use agreement to operate the public golf facility. The first function of this land is designed as a basin for flood water which would further complicate building any permanent structures within those areas.”

Mr. Walsh explains the municipality maintains a maintenance-and-operations agreement with the PGA Tour for the Bureau of Reclamation land where the golf course sits.

“The city of Scottsdale has an operations and management agreement with the PGA Tour to maintain and operate the property,” he explained. “PGA Tour/TPC Scottsdale are responsible for daily maintenance and operation of the property. The Thunderbirds have a contract with the PGA Tour and are responsible for the tournament setup as it pertains to hospitality suites and sales, ticketing, volunteers, and construction of the venues through their contractors. Plans are submitted to the city for the structures that are reviewed by planning and public safety prior to the tournament.”

Mr. Walsh explains about the first week of October construction begins at the 16th hole of TPC Scottsdale for the following year’s event.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: To be or not to be permanent?

The WM Phoenix Open and its one-of-a-kind temporary 16th hole coliseum is an event unlike anywhere else on the PGA Tour, tourism and even local experts agree.

“The Phoenix Open, and 16th hole in particular, is unique in its combination of energy, excitement and sunshine,” said Experience Scottsdale Pubic Affairs Manager Stephanie Pressler. “It’s an exclusive opportunity that comes around just once a year, and as a result, corporate sponsors and attendees vie for their spots at the 16th hole.”

That exclusive, temporary opportunity is good food for business, Ms. Pressler contends.

“The WM Phoenix Open is one of Scottsdale’s signature, tourism-driving events,” she said. “Beyond bringing thousands of visitors and locals alike to our community, the tournament raises awareness of Scottsdale as a premier golf destination. Because of the incredible exposure the Phoenix Open generates, golfers around the world want to play the championship course and television viewers from afar want to join in the fun.”

But for the co-founder of the Scottsdale Polo Party, Jason Rose, he wonders, “what if?”

“Owning a tourism-attracting event myself and representing others like Barrett-Jackson, Scottsdale Arabian Horse and Arizona Bike Week, I think permanency of the 16th hole coliseum could be the next big thing in Scottsdale tourism,” he said in response to being asked if making it permanent could take away from the allure of the event.

“When sports fans go to Chicago they go to games or tour Wrigley Field. Same in Boston and New York for Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. So, the 16th hole becomes our legendary sports thing much as those stadiums are huge draws for tourists in those cities.”

In the ‘Digital Age,’ Mr. Rose argues, a permanent structure at the 16th hole could bring organic attention to the Phoenix metropolitan area.

“Does a permanent Lambeau Field, Fenway Park or Augusta National take away from the allure?” he rhetorically asked. “To the contrary permanency would make it more accessible and popular than ever. In the age of social media every player of that hole becomes a passionate promoter of the Scottsdale and Phoenix brand.”

Mr. Rose contends Scottsdale is the land of the ‘big idea’ and watching the WM Phoenix Open become such a positive beacon for Arizona and the sport of golf, he can’t help but think of what comes next.

“To the politicians, federal officials and others involved in the decision making I hope it can be figured out. After all, there is a permanent and massive Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center at WestWorld on land owned by the Bureau of Reclamation,” he said. “So why not the 16th coliseum at the TPC? Scottsdale is flush with tourism funds that could be used in part for the project as could The Thunderbirds, who would obviously save tremendous amounts of money with a permanent structure, our Churchill Downs.”

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