Jared Rice, vice president PGA TOUR and executive director THE PLAYERS Championship, presented an update on the 2020 edition of THE PLAYERS Championship during the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Ponte Vedra Beach Division joint luncheon with the Jax Chamber Beaches Division on Jan. 22. The two Chamber groups combine meetings quarterly to network and share information. The January meeting was at the Casa Marina Hotel and Restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, sponsored by Fields Auto Group.
Rice said planning began 18 months ago for the 2020 tournament, scheduled March 12 to 15.
“Just 47 days to go,” he said at the luncheon. There is a convenient countdown clock on the tournament website at theplayers.com.
Some of the changes for the 2019 tournament were a new trophy, the new Jack Nicklaus boardwalk entry, new brand-specific theme music and the controversial move from May to March.
“The numbers show the move to March was a success,” Rice said.
Of the 200,000 Tuesday through Saturday tickets for the 2019 event, 67% were purchased outside the local five-county region. March 2019 was the all-time busiest March for Jacksonville International Airport, and the area hotel occupancy rate averaged 88%. The goal is to be considered a “bucket list” destination.
Rice highlighted some of the 2020 tournament plans and improvements.
Fans can watch every shot live. The tournament has installed in-ground fiber optic cable around every hole and will double its videographer staff to stream every shot live. A new partnership with Discovery Networks will stream tournament action to 86 foreign countries through subscription. Further, TPC on Jan. 22 announced a relationship with Facebook Watch.
There will be no printed tickets. All tickets will be mobile and all tickets will be day-specific.
“This is important from a service perspective,” Rice said. “We need to know when you’re coming.”
The tournament draws capacity crowds on peak days. Daily Stadium Passes range from $25 to $70. All active duty, military retirees, military reserve, National Guard and military spouses, along with dependents, can claim complimentary tickets online. College students can purchase a discounted Thursday through Sunday pass for $55. Admission for kids 15 and younger is free when accompanied by a properly credentialed adult.
“The spirit of this [youth admission] program is we want kids and families to come out and enjoy the sport,” Rice said.
To better serve guests, day-specific parking passes are also required. Four or more in one vehicle can still park for free, but only with a day-specific pass.
THE PLAYERS Championship is more than a sporting event that draws worldwide attention to Northeast Florida. In 2019 alone, the tournament had a $9.25 million charitable impact. Since the tournament’s inception, more than $100 million has directly supported nonprofit organizations in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties.
Rice encourages locals to attend the 2020 event and see improvements made to the fan experience during the last eight years, including ease of entry, more diverse food and beverage offerings and revamped spectator venues.
“There’s something for everybody, whether you’re a sports fan, foodie or a family,” Rice said.