Prospect of winning bid for PGA Championship at The Concession prompts full County Commission support for funding $3-million sponsorship

Event could be scheduled in 2031 or 2033

This aerial map shows part of The Concession Golf Club in Manatee County. Image from Google Maps

Expressing excitement about the prospect, the Sarasota County commissioners have authorized county staff to analyze the potential of using “bed tax” revenue to put up $3 million in an effort to secure a major PGA tournament at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton in either 2031 or 2033.

The bed tax — or Tourist Development Tax (TDT) — revenue is derived from a 6% surcharge on accommodations rented for six months or less time in the county. Through July, the TDT funding already had exceeded the $45-million mark for this fiscal year, which will not end until Sept. 30.

During a May budget update, Kim Radtke, director of the county’s Office of Financial Management, pointed out to the commissioners that the TDT revenue was coming in well ahead of the figure staff had expected by that point of this fiscal year.

The Manatee County Commission is committing $6 million to the effort to secure the tournament, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis pointed out during the Sarasota County Commission’s regular meeting on Sept. 12.

The leaders of Visit Sarasota County sent Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR) Department, a memo on Aug. 14, explaining that Sarasota and Manatee counties “have the opportunity to star on the world stage as our community competes to host one of the four major golf tournaments.”
The memo added, “The Board of the PGA [Professional Golfers’ Association] is expected to award this major in November of this year.”

The tournament would be the PGA Championship, the letter points out. Along with The Masters, The U.S. Open and The Open Championship — formerly The British Open — it is one of the PGA’s most prestigious competitions, called a “major.”

President George W. Bush presents PGA champion Jack Nicklaus with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 9, 2005, during ceremonies at the White House. White House photo by Shealah Craighead, via Wikimedia Commons

The Concession Golf Club’s website touts the fact that it was named “Best New Golf Course” by Golf Digest during the facility’s opening year, 2006. “The Concession was designed in honor of the 1969 Ryder Cup, where Jack Nicklaus conceded a putt to Tony Jacklin. That gesture, known as ‘the concession,’ rendered the two teams in a tie — the first in Ryder Cup history — and became known as one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship ever. Nicklaus and Jacklin teamed to design The Concession, home to some of the best golf in Florida,” the website adds.

The letter about the sponsorship, sent by Visit Sarasota County (VSC) President Virginia J. Haley, also explained, “We are in this position because of the amazing support of The Concession and that of our community in hosting the World Golf Championship event in February 2021.” That tournament occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, she continued, with only three months of preparation having been possible. “[T]he PGA was so impressed with our ability to effortlessly handle a major sporting event under the toughest conditions,” Haley noted.

“Florida has not hosted one of golf’s major tournaments since 1987,” she continued. “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.”

Yet, Haley added, such events also routinely draw 40,000 attendees a day, “not counting the broadcast [crew], PGA team and media from around the world.”

Further, she noted, “This event also attracts the highest level of corporate leaders and VIPs, many of whom will be in Sarasota for the first time. We know from experience, once someone discovers Sarasota while attending a sporting event, they come back!”

Additionally, Haley wrote, with Sarasota County participating as a host of the PGA Championship, Visit Sarasota County would “be able to promote Sarasota County as a PGA sponsor in … messaging for the next 10 years and for many years after that.”

Haley also noted that helping host the tournament would demonstrate that the county “is a major player in the sports world,” which would enable Visit Sarasota County staff to attract even more events. “We saw this play out during the 2017 World Rowing Championships,” she continued, as she and her staff used that event to host officials representing the World Baseball organization. “They were so impressed with the professionalism of the [rowing] event that they awarded us the World Baseball Championships in 2022.”

An aerial view shows the crowd during one of the days of the 2017 World Rowing Championships at Benderson Park. Photo courtesy of the 2017 World Rowing Championships staff in Sarasota County

Manatee County, acting through the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, “will be the host for the [PGA] event and provide the event guarantee,” Haley wrote.

Along with her letter, Haley sent Rissler of PRNR a copy of the Greater Rochester Enterprise’s press release regarding the $190-million economic impact that Rochester, N.Y., expected to realize from hosting the PGA Championship this year.

Along with the financial gain, that news release said, the tournament was anticipated to “support an estimated 1,233 jobs.”
Further, in addition to the expected 225,000 spectators over the period of the event, the release added, the community would be welcoming “156 of the world’s most talented golfers along with their support teams and families …”

Haley’s letter and the press release were included in the agenda packet for the commissioners’ Sept. 12 meeting.

‘A massive opportunity’

After Lewis noted the request for $3 million in sponsorship funding, Commission Joe Neunder made the motion to approve the analysis of the “bed tax” revenue, and Commissioner Neil Rainford seconded it.

“This has the potential of bringing close to $200 million into [our counties],” Neunder pointed out, referencing Haley’s letter.

He then asked Lewis whether the commission could exceed the $3 million request.

Lewis responded that, “based on what we know now,” that is an appropriate amount.

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 that point of the current fiscal year. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“I just think it’s a great opportunity for our community, working with Manatee County, to just put on a spectacular event, and looking forward to hosting it,” Rainford added.

“I want to pile on here,” Commissioner Michael Moran said. “This is a massive opportunity.”

Noting that he moved to Sarasota from the Detroit metro area, which has hosted major tournaments, Moran continued, “It cannot be ignored, the economic driver and stimulus that [such an event] can create for a community. I hope we’re sending a strong, hard message that we’re in full support of this.”

Chair Ron Cutsinger reminded his colleagues that he represents them on the Visit Sarasota County Board of Directors. “There’s a lot of excitement about this,” he said, adding that he was able to attend the 2021 World Golf Championship at The Concession. “It was a wonderful experience. I just think this is a huge win for our area.”

After calling for the vote on Neunder’s motion, and hearing positive responses from his four colleagues, Cutsinger added, “The chair enthusiastically votes, “Aye.”