The Ryder Cup is still six months away, but the metro area’s hotels are almost all booked, and other hospitality businesses – from restaurants to caterers to limousine services – are planning for a six-day binge of activity.
As of this week, there were just 150 rooms available for the event out of roughly 16,000 across the metro area, said Jim Wood, president of the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau.
A task force for Mayor Jerry Abramson estimates that the competition’s economic impact on the overall metro area will be at least $120 million. A 2001 study of the Kentucky Derby, by comparison, estimated the three-day local impact at $217 million.
“Out-of-town guests for the Ryder Cup, many of them from large corporations, are snapping up tables at 610 Magnolia in Old Louisville,” said Edward Lee, chef and co-owner. “The reservation book is already half full for the week of 16-21 September, well above normal for a period so far in advance. We‘re a little bit terrified, because Derby is enough.”
The cup will take place in eastern Jefferson County at Valhalla Golf Club, where attendance is expected to total 240,000 over six days.
In addition to the 40,000 visitors expected each day at Valhalla, metro government and local convention bureau officials are planning a series of community events called the “Cup Experience.” There will be live music and other activities at 4th Street Live; a $500-per-person gala at Churchill Downs; and a competition for one-armed golfers in Simpsonville, among other events.
Many area hotels have been booked in advance for months and Ryder Cup organizers have said some visitors will stay in nearby cities such as Lexington and Cincinnati due to a shortage of high-end rooms in Louisville.
By last November, for example, the downtown Marriott, Seelbach Hilton, Brown, Galt House, Hyatt Regency and 21c Museum hotels were already filled for the Ryder Cup.
At the Galt House, which has 1,300 rooms, visitors will pay about $600 per night plus tax for a minimum stay of five nights, or roughly double the regular rate.
So many people will be in town that Brian Masterson of Masterson’s Catering said most of the weddings scheduled for that week through his company’s business have been moved because so few hotel rooms and banquet facilities are available. The lack of available rooms – especially at upscale hotels – has prompted some golf fans to rent a private home for the week.
Dana Martin, owner of Event Home Leasing, said she expects her company will handle contracts for more than 100 homes, mostly in eastern Jefferson County. Martin declined to comment on prices, but her Web site shows some properties going for more than $100,000 for the week.
Access to the golf course itself will bring out even bigger bucks.
The PGA of America, which owns Valhalla, is charging $387,000 for six days of access to a 100-person “hospitality chalet” at the course. Two of those chalets were still available as of this week, but the smaller $235,000 versions for 50 people were sold out. Those packages include tickets to the competition, a customized menu with food and drinks, and a climate-controlled space to entertain.
The PGA initially considered building a private helipad near Valhalla to accommodate visitors, but tournament director Tara Guenther said the group has decided there isn‘t enough demand to justify the cost.
A large share of Ryder Cup visitors are expected to come from overseas, and many others will be from outside Kentucky. That could mean brisk business for companies such as Louisville Executive Aviation, which provides charter aircraft, fuel and other services at Bowman Field, said Eric Potempa, the firm’s vice president.
“So far we‘re encouraged by the reservation book,” he said. “It’s a big event.”
At R&R Limousine, owner Carey Fieldhouse is preparing to assemble a fleet of luxury buses and vans for large groups of business people. She said stretch limos are the biggest draw during Derby, when smaller groups and couples are more common.
About 20 extra temporary workers will be staffing R&R’s offices in the Newburg area during Ryder Cup week, and Fieldhouse said she expects to be fully booked for the event by June or July.
“We‘ve been planning for Ryder Cup for well over a year,” Fieldhouse said. Others say they haven‘t seen an impact yet. Jeff Ruby’s and Ruth’s Chris steakhouses said they had not taken any reservations for the event.
Local golf companies are hoping to cash in as well. Louisville Golf Club Co. will sell special-edition wooden putters to Ryder Cup fans for as much as $299, using cherry trees that came from Valhalla.
Officials at Polo Fields Golf & Country Club are hoping to lure golf fans to their private course, which normally is closed to non-members but will be open to golfers who pay a special one-time fee. Regular members at Polo Fields will still be able to play at the club, but membership director Jason Fowler said the opportunity to rent out the course to visitors – fees will range from $100 to $150 per round – was too good to pass up.
“We‘re probably a mile away from Valhalla, so they‘ll get all the pageantry,” Fowler said.
Ryder Cup 2008 www.rydercup.com