Fresh on the heels of earning the No. 20 spot on Money’s 2009 list of America’s Best Places to Live, Chaska is hosting the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club this week. This is an international news-making event, and the community has been gearing up for months and months to prepare.
Articles in our truly superb local resource, the Chaska Herald, have detailed preparations of the course, the history of Hazeltine, how the communities of Chaska, Chanhassen and Jonathan were impacted by the development, and even a story on the snazzy new PGA banners hung on lamp posts throughout downtown Chaska.
From all outward appearances, Chaska has been gearing up for an event to remember.
So it’s safe to say I was quite surprised to read this quote from a Herald article titled “Golf fever strikes – but will it pay off for Chaska?”:
“Our experience says there’s no large economic impact,” said Chaska City Administrator Matt Podhradsky. “Other than setting foot at the golf course, [attendees] don’t really set foot in town.”
This is the most depressing local government official statement I’ve read all year. In my opinion the shuttle stop argument for not even trying to bring a fraction of golf dollars into town lies in laziness on behalf of the local government, the Chamber and downtown business community.
Canterbury Park in nearby Shakopee is the official shuttle stop, and this article quotes Shakopee’s Chamber, hoteliers and restauranteurs about how they plan to count their money. Canterbury Park is only eight miles from downtown Chaska — closer than many people drive to buy milk and bread.
Maybe it’s my one-year-Chaskan-resident-naivete here, but if Chaska is the place for golf this week AND thousands of out-of-towners are descending on a plot of land four miles from downtown, this sure seems like a tremendous opportunity for the local business community to pull together and make a reason for them to spend money in our town.
Shuttle stop be damned, we went to the trouble of printing and hanging lamp post banners, but nobody thought to dangle a carrot big enough to get folks to stop by our picturesque community, grab a bite to eat, poke through our shops and take in the ambiance that makes this place #20 best place to live?
Maybe these conversations were had, and I’m conveniently misinformed. It just seems someone dropped the ball, and I think it deserves a penalty stroke.
What would I have done? For starters…
- Host a PGA-themed community event at Chaska City Square this weekend, complete with local bands, charity putting contests, kids’ games, celebrity speakers, etc. Perhaps more realistic than pulling off a new event, consider pushing back River City Days three weeks to the PGA week.
- In conjunction with the community event and activities, coordinate progressive dinners at our stellar local restaurants (or at a very minimum, discounts for PGA passholders), including Spice Up, Mi Casa, Chaska My Love, China Pagoda and Cy’s with a dessert stop at It’s Just Perfect.
- In conjunction with the community event and dinners, organize a “Drink with the Pros” campaign, featuring a bar crawl with stops at Pauly’s, Kelley’s, Cy’s, Dolce Vita and the American Legion. PGA caddies drink free all night every night.
- In conjunction with the community event, dinners and bar crawls, host a golf film festival at Rex Movie Theater, including family golf favorites like “Caddyshack.”
- During the events and PGA tour week, actually compel our downtown businesses to be OPEN — I’m talking to you Linda’s Cellar, Vintage Cottage, Mixed Company, Mill House Gallery and Lillian’s — so folks passing through town can come inside and buy things. The antique shops could have spent the past few months seeking out golf-related treasures to help draw folks in.
- In conjunction with the community event, boutique and restaurant promotion, organize a “Golf Widows” day event, featuring a partnership between Tonia’s Salon, Hair & Beyond, M. Elizabeth and Forever Nails and Spa for spa treatments, manicures, pedicures or makeovers.
- Paint temporary golf cart lanes throughout downtown Chaska and encourage PGA attendees and Chaska residents to take to the streets in their carts for the week of the event. Set up community recharging stations, have Chaska High School cheerleaders or band members host “cart washes” and organize the first-ever Chaska Golf Cart Olympics. The national and local media attention around this stunt would be worth it alone.
- Invite local churches to collaborate and host an ecumenical service in the City Square for out of town Christians, followed by a “Bless the Clubs” event similar to Guardian Angels’ upcoming St. Francis of Assisi’s Bless the Pets Day in October.
- Empower our fantastically delicious local pizza joints, Pizza N Pasta and Sarpino’s to have the busiest delivery nights of the week by hosting PGA specials, set up pizza stations at shuttle stops, deliver in-town pies via golf cart, etc.
- During the community event and PGA week, turn those empty downtown storefronts into an asset. For example, Sundance Film Festival each year, downtown Park City residents rent their stores and apartment lofts to sponsors hosting corporate events, lounges and private concerts. Why send PGA sponsors to Minneapolis hotels to host influencer events when we have food, lodging and space only four miles from the course?
Easier said than done, I know. But as a downtown resident and daytime marketer, it kills me to see the PGA tour all but ignored because of small parking lot mentality.
Last night Mi Casa set out a sandwich board reading something like “PGA Fans Welcome” and listing bar prices, and around 8 p.m. watched a group of 15 people walk down my back alley toward it. It’s good to see Mi Casa trying, and it was apparently working.
I’m not a big Field of Dreams guy, but sometimes “if you market, they will come.”