With another Waste Management Phoenix Open just completed it’s a reminder how impactful and bucket list the tournament’s 16th Hole has become in world sport. Think of the “Green Monster” in left field at Fenway Park in Boston. Or Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Or sitting in the stands at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. Or tailgating before a Florida-George college football game, known as the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party.” You get the idea.
Scottsdale has something big and remarkable. And with golf already a primary reason for tourists the world over visiting the city, it’s time to build upon and monetize this remarkable experience.
You see, people don’t just want to be on 16 during a few days during a raucous golf tournament. They want to play it when the Roman Coliseum like stadium surrounds it. Playing it otherwise is like visiting Michelangelo’s David in Florence with clothes on.
Over the years there have been discussions about making the stands for some 22,000 people permanent. Now is the time to try and make it a reality.
How could this be done and in what way?
First, there is an obvious, large cost to the temporary installation of such substantial infrastructure for but one week per year. Rather than see the host organization, The Thunderbirds, sink this cost each year pledge the annual amount to its permanency.
A potential model already exists in Scottsdale as the non-profit Charros have spent and are prepared to spend more as part of Scottsdale Stadium renovations. In many ways their Charros Lodge in right field during San Francisco Giants’ spring training games is much like the 16th hole, created an unrivaled atmosphere in the Cactus League.
Scottsdale also has a robust tourism tax, with more monies available now that one of the worst ideas in recent memory, the so-called Desert Discovery Center, is no more.
Between the Thunderbirds, tourism tax and perhaps an additional assessment on each round of golf played at the TPC Scottsdale, there could be enough money available to bond and construct a permanent 16th Hole experience. Imagine adding a noise element too, giving golfers the ability to simulate what it’s like to play during the actual event. This is next generation tourism for Scottsdale that can and will pay dividends.
Are there challenges? Of course. Maintenance and life-spans of whatever might be erected, as is the case with the “Big Tent” at WestWorld, are certainly considerations.
But Scottsdale has a City Manager in place that is not afraid of making decisions or playing hard jigsaw puzzles. He is the best possible caddy to help Scottsdale figure this out. It is worth the effort for if ,and perhaps when, it’s ever accomplished. It would truly be one of the more imaginative sports tourism accomplishments in American history. That’s not hyperbole. That’s a fact. And anyone and everyone who has witnesses the awe of 16 knows it.
And who knows it may one day lead to the Valley hosting the Ryder Cup, golf’s Super Bowl.
So let’s stop imagining and talking. And get to work.