County commissioners unanimously commit ‘minimum of $3 million’ in effort to try to win bid for 2031 PGA Championship at The Concession

PGA board to make decision in November

This is the top of The Concession Golf Club homepage. Image from the club website

It took less than 2 minutes on Sept. 26 for the Sarasota County Commission to approve “a minimum of $3 million,” as Chair Ron Cutsinger phrased it, in support of efforts for The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton to host the PGA Championship in 2031.

The funds will come out of Tourist Tax Development (TDT) revenue, which derives from a 6% county tax on accommodations rented for six months or less time.

During their regular meeting on Sept. 12, the commissioners initially discussed the proposal for the bidding for the tournament, which is classified as one of the four major competitions that the Professional Golfers’ Association of America conducts each year. A letter from Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, in the board members’ Sept. 12 agenda packet included information about the $190 million in economic impact that the PGA Championship was expected to generate this May when it was held in Rochester, N.Y.

Former state Sen. Bill Galvano of Bradenton, who addressed the commissioners early on during their Sept. 26 meeting, emphasized that being able to host one of golf’s four major tournaments “is a big deal.”

He added that he believes the financial impact for the Sarasota-Manatee region would be even greater than that of the Super Bowl.

Further, Galvano pointed out that The Concession will be hosting the PGA’s inaugural World Champions Cup in early December.

Chair Cutsinger thanked Galvano for taking the lead on the effort to try to secure the 2031 event at The Concession.

Following the Sept. 12 discussion, the commissioners authorized County Administrator Jonathan Lewis and his staff to determine whether sufficient TDT revenue was available in the “pot” set aside for promoting the county, to enable the board to approve the $3-million sponsorship.

This chart, provided to the county’s Tourist Development Council members for a meeting last week, shows third quarter details about the Tourist Development Tax revenue the county had received by then. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In a memo to the commissioners, included in the Sept. 26 meeting packet, and in comments to the board that day, Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department confirmed that the funding is available.

She also pointed out that the decision had been made just to bid on holding the tournament in 2031, instead of suggesting that The Concession could be the host either that year or in 2033.

The PGA is expected to make its decision in November in regard to the 2031 host, Haley said in her Aug. 14 memo to Rissler.

The Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau would be the host of the PGA Championship, if it were awarded to The Concession. The Bradenton tourism organization is putting up $6 million to try to win the bid, Haley pointed out her memo.

In that memo, Haley also emphasized, “Florida has not hosted one of golf’s major tournaments since 1987. The impact of a major tournament is significant and long-lasting. The worldwide television coverage of the event reaches 700 million viewers. That alone would make this a worthy opportunity for Sarasota County.”

John Hamilton Gillespie. Photo from the Friends of Bobby Jones Golf Club

On Sept. 26, Commissioner Michael Moran was the first board member to suggest that the letter sent to the PGA of America include language making it clear that the commissioners were willing to commit “at least $3 million.”

However, after Commissioner Joe Neunder made the motion to that effect, Cutsinger told his colleagues, “I would prefer ‘minimum’ ”; his colleagues concurred with his suggestion.

A draft of the letter that will go to the PGA — also included in the agenda packet — pointed out, “Sarasota County has a rich history of golf going back to 1885 when John Hamilton Gillespie arrived in Sarasota from Scotland. Gillespie became Sarasota’s first Mayor and laid out 18 holes of golf which many claim was the first golf course in America. Over the years, golf history has been made here from a famous match between young Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, LPGA Classic, 13 Champion PGA Tour events and the 2015 Men’s and

Women’s NCAA Golf Championships.”

The letter further noted, “We have demonstrated our commitment to being best-in-class hosts for a variety of large sporting events such

as the U-18 Baseball World Cup, Dragon Boat World Championships, World Rowing Championships and more. As you know, our region came together to host the World Golf Championship in February 2021.

“PGA players and fans will come to understand why Sarasota County has been showered with national accolades from Best Beach in the US to the Most Moved-to City in the US,” the letter continued. “Sarasota is known as Florida’s Cultural Coast™ and is renowned for its hospitality. Our accommodations can meet every need from the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota and St Regis Longboat Key to luxury vacation rental homes. Our community boasts a large base of experienced volunteers eager to make The PGA Championship a success.”