Golf fans in the Houston area won't have any excuses not to attend the Administaff Small Business Classic at The Woodlands CC this weekend. Following the lead of a couple of other Champions Tour tournaments in 2009, the Administaff is offering free admission and parking throughout the week.
According to the tour, The Allianz Championship and Dick's Sporting Goods Open had single days on which spectators got in free. The Boeing Classic offered free admission for a donation of school supplies and the Walmart First Tee Open for bringing in canned foods.
At the 3M Championship in Minnesota, which was held about a month before the PGA Championship in the same market, free entry was a big hit, according to Hollis Cavner, whose company, Prolinks Sports, manages four senior events, including the Administaff. "It was the best tournament we ever had," said Cavner, who got corporations to sponsor individual days at the 3M so fans could attend for free. "We were up more than 40 percent in concessions revenue. The players were 100 percent behind it. They walked out, and there were fans everywhere. If a tournament can afford to do it, it's the greatest thing in the world."
The economic model of a Champions Tour event, according to its president, Mike Stevens, can sometimes make free admission a viable consideration. "Individual tickets are not huge line items in budgets of Champions Tour events," Stevens said. "The vast majority of tickets are sold through packages - sky boxes, hospitality tents. In these times, if an event has got the sponsorships to cover the necessary expenses, or your sponsor feels like it would like to gain additional goodwill in the community by giving away tickets, there are a lot of reasons to do it."
Cavner remembers hearing from spectators grateful for the free admission. "I heard from people saying that they had lost their job, and they said it was great for them to be able to bring their kids out and have a good time," Cavner said. "It makes you feel good when you can do something like that."
*-- Bill Fields *