Nearly a week before the FBR Open turns the green — and usually serene — Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale into the Valley’s hottest party spot, the 700 Greenskeepers packages, which cost $2,200 for a quartet of big-spenders to nosh at an exclusive food-andbeverage spread, are all sold out.
Corporate Village tents and skyboxes, where company executives can entertain top customers away from the rowdy mobs of golf watchers, have less than a handful of vacancies. And that’s despite a 25 percent increase in the number of skyboxes from last year, tourney chairman Bryon Carney said.
Scottsdale hotel rooms are booked solid with players and those who would like to be, including PGA staff, sponsors, company bigwigs and their clients and just plain golf lovers, who come to Scottsdale annually to watch the pros play and escape from cold weather back home.
Anybody who thinks the most attended stop on the PGA Tour is just about golf, hasn’t seen the statistics.
The FBR Open tees off Monday, with the pros getting down to the serious stuff on Thursday, the final rounds on Sunday, and the biggest crowds expected on Saturday.
In 2003, the then-named Phoenix Open pumped $175 million into the economy, as calculated by researchers at the Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of business.
Nobody did a study last year, but the Phoenix Thunderbirds, the philanthropic organization that stages the annual tourney, netted enough to donate $4.54 million to Arizona charities, twice the tote from the previous year.
"We’re on track to do at least that this year," Carney said. "Expenses are up, but sales are way up."
The Thunderbirds goal is to make the FBR Open the top charitable giver on the PGA tour, Carney said. It’s already in the top three after the 2004 tourney, he said.
The weather can be a factor.
"Tickets and packages are almost all pre-sold, so we have a lock on that," Carney said. But if those who have a ticket opt to sit out a day, refreshment sales suffer. On the other hand, if it’s much hotter than normal, people come in droves and buy more cold drinks, he said.
Last year more than 500,000 people came through the gate during the weeklong event.
While the tournament doesn’t actually start until Thursday, a flurry of pro-ams, where big spenders can ante up a few thousand bucks apiece to play with pros from one sport or another — sometimes even golf — begin Monday.
Pro-am spots, at $2,100 to $7,500, are all sold out, Carney said.
And the Thunderbirds have sold sponsorships for just about anything you can stick a logo on from the holes to the quiet signs.
Scottsdale -based Cold Stone Creamery and tropical clothing retailer Tommy Bahama have ads on daily tickets. Package transporter DHL sponsors the tent full of vendors and diversions such as putting contests and race care simulators. Supermarket giant Fry’s sponsors the food court.
The 33 corporate Village tents, which can host about 250 people, go for $30,000 to $100,000 a week, not including food, Carney said.
"Companies tend to spend something about equal to what they pay for the tent on the food," he said.
Mid-week there was one still available, he said. Companies such as Grubb & Ellis, Wells Fargo, America West Airlines, Avnet and IBM are among the tent renters.
Skyboxes perched above the 16th 17th and 18th fairways are smaller and cheaper, but can hold fewer people. They go for about the same weekly price, but the cost includes food and beverages, Carney said.
Last year there were 103 skyboxes. This year there are 129, Carney said.
"We added those extra boxes based on demand," he said. It panned out. There are only a couple still available.
Companies such as SRP, Johnson Bank, and Merrill Lynch are among the 96 companies that snagged one or more skyboxes this year.
The Thunderbirds raised the price of Greenskeepers packages by $100 this year, but sold an extra 50 of them, he said.
Members Club packages, which include entry for four into several exclusive foodand-beverage tents less posh than Greenskeepers’ spread can be had for $1,200. About 400 packages have been sold, Carney said. More are available.
The Clubhouse, for those who want to watch the tournament from the hill overlooking the 18th green, is sponsored by the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort. Six weekly passes go for $5,000. Carney said there are still some Clubhouse packages available.
There’s plenty of spending going on outside the TPC, too.
Scottsdale estimates that FBR Open visitors spend at least $11.5 million in the city’s hotels, shops and restaurants, said Kathy Carlisle O’Connor, the city’s tourism development coordinator.
While most of the attendees are local, nearby hotels are packed with the enormous entourage that comes with such an event.