Smith talks THE PLAYERS economic impact, sightline changes

Mounds near No. 18 green lowered to create better vantage points


There is no doubt that the THE PLAYERS Championship has an impact on the local economy throughout the week it takes place each year, but tournament executive director Lee Smith shed some light on just how much of an impact it is recently.

Smith was guest speaker during the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Marsh Landing Country Club on Feb. 14.

According to Smith, THE PLAYERS generates a $234 million annual impact on the Northeast Florida economy, which has continued to grow over the years, as he stated that he saw a report in 2005 where the tournament generated $95 million.

THE PLAYERS sold 36,000 hats during the tournament last year and 23 local restaurants were involved with THE PLAYERS in some way or another during the week.

According to a University of Florida study, the breakdown of last year’s event saw about 96,000 hotel rooms booked throughout the week and 650,000 passengers making there way through Jacksonville International Airport, which makes it the airport’s busiest week of the year.

The airport is not the only thing that proves THE PLAYERS is a true worldwide event, but the tournament also has 15 different T.V. partners that will broadcast the event.

“Last year, there were 51 million hours of our broadcast consumed worldwide, so that’s a pretty darn nice commercial for Northeast Florida, St. Johns County and Ponte Vedra Beach, and we’re proud to be a part of that,” Smith said.

Not only does THE PLAYERS impact the community with the money it brings in to local businesses, but it also has supported more than 300 charities since it inception.

Some of the new things surrounding this year’s tournament itself, will include the look of a couple of mounds to the right of the 18th green, which were lowered roughly 15 feet and a mound to the right of the 12th and 13th greens was lowered about eight feet.

“For those of you who know the grounds forward and back, will notice that we did a lot of earth moving in the offseason,” Smith said. “We used that dirt to fill in a couple of the holding ponds in and around the clubhouse to create a little bit more landing space in what we call ‘Sawgrass Square.’”

Smith was especially excited about the lowering of the mound near No. 18 and is anxious to see the increased sightlines it will give to fans and the look it will create on television.

“One of the things we noticed over time was that when featured groups or pairings come up 18, there just wasn’t a lot of room between the mounding on the right, the cart path, and the green,” Smith said. “You could gather maybe three or four people deep around the green, but it just wasn’t the perspective we wanted, and it wasn’t celebrated enough as the last hole of THE PLAYERS Championship.”

The revision of the mound added about 14 feet of space from the rope running along the hole to the cart path, which in turn will provide more space for fans to get a good glimpse of the final group walking up the fairway and the tournament-clinching shots.