Editor's Note: This version has an incorrect headline. It should read, "Golf tournament officials share update on PGA Tour event coming to Wilmington." The PGA Championship is a separate event.
A PGA Tour championship golf tournament coming to Wilmington in 2017 is expected to have a significant impact on the local economy, tournament officials said at a news conference Thursday.
Usually held at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, the Wells Fargo Championship is moving to Wilmington’s Eagle Point Golf Club, off Bald Eagle Lane, for one year only on May 1-7, 2017. Next year, the tournament will take place at Quail Hollow, returning to Charlotte in 2018 and 2019.
While the main purpose of Thursday's news conference at Eagle Point was to announce the opening of ticket sales, tournament officials also shared information about how the tournament will impact Wilmington and the region, including worldwide TV exposure, accommodations, parking and charitable contributions.The economic impact in dollars, according to a championship fact sheet provided by the tournament, is estimated to be between $40 million and $60 million for the Wilmington area.
"The reach of the golf tournament is far and wide," said Kym Hougham, executive director of the tournament, adding that scenes from Wilmington are expected to reach 1 billion households across 225 countries and territories outside the United States through international TV partners, in addition to U.S. network programming.
Referring to golf fans who want to watch the tournament in person, he said tickets are in high demand.
"We've had a lot of requests from a lot of people, and we wanted to get that process going. Tickets are going to be limited to make sure we make this a pleasurable experience for those who do buy tickets," Hougham said.
He said he expects that limit to be between 25,000 and 30,000 tickets per day.
In recent years, tourism and business leaders have said the Wilmington area has a shortage of hotel rooms, especially considering the number of tourists who visit throughout the year for beach vacations and events. Some of those leaders are expected to meet at the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning to discuss lodging needs for the championship, said Frank Jones, board chairman of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority and general manager of Suburban Extended Stay Hotel. Tournament officials also plan to attend.
"We've never really had a tournament of that size in the area, so it's all going to be new to us," Jones said Thursday. "I know the [Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau] is looking more at the sports marketing area, and this will be kind of a test for us to see whether this area can handle large functions like that in the future."
Hougham said plans are in place for where the tournament's players, caddies and vendors will stay, as a result of working with local hotels. The timing of the event, which takes place before the influx of tourists who typically come to the Wilmington area starting with Memorial Day weekend each year, is expected to help with other lodging needs, he said.
"It's not on-season at that point, so I'm sure the accommodations are there," he said.
Hougham said tournament officials are working on where parking will be located, adding that one site that had been under consideration is now occupied by the Lowe's Home Improvement in Porters Neck. Among other sites that could potentially serve the parking needs of the tournament, two are for sale, but it's too far out from the start of the tournament to tell at this point, he said.
"If we can get the ones we want, it's going to be great," he said.
Parking and round-trip shuttle service from tournament-authorized lots will be free, according to a news release.
Champions for Education, a nonprofit organization, operates and manages the tournament, donating more than $18 million to local and regional charities since 2003. The charitable dollars from the 2017 tournament will remain in the Wilmington community, said Mac Everett, tournament chairman.
Tickets for the championship will go on sale Oct. 12, officials said. They range in price from $30 for a Practice Pack of three individual daily tickets for Monday through Wednesday to $165 for a seven-day admission Weekly Book and can be obtained online at wellsfargochampionship.com or by calling (800) 945-0777.
Golfer Rory McIlroy became the tournament's first multiple champion this year in Charlotte. Past champions include Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Anthony Kim.