Shaffer Sports & Events has erected a PGA Tour-record 700,000 square feet of bleachers, hospitality tents and concession areas, including a 3,000-seat amphitheater around the first tee
CHARLOTTE — Mark McCollister is used to large projects, having built chemical plants and oil refineries in Texas and Louisiana before joining Shaffer Sports & Events in November 2018.
But even McCollister can’t believe what the leading event rental company in the sports industry has constructed ahead of this week's Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club.
"I make a loop around the service road every morning and I always find some new angle to take a photo to throw in my phone," says McCollister, vice president of Houston-based Shaffer Sports. "It’s still a daily amazement that our company was able to pull this off, to put this much infrastructure in one place."
How big is big?
Well, Shaffer Sports & Events has erected a staggering PGA Tour record 700,000 square feet of bleachers, hospitality tents, concession areas in and around the private Charlotte club, which annually stages the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship and also hosted the 2017 PGA Championship.
For starters, in early April it took 250 flatbed trailers of material for the temporary structure build out, along with a daily staff of 80 and three project managers. The tear down alone will take 11-12 weeks — just in time for McCollister and his workers to celebrate Christmas.
Shaffer Sports & Events has a contract with the PGA Tour to built infrastructure to its largest events, such as The Players Championship, World Golf Championship events in the United States, the Tour Championship, and others.
"But this is by far our single biggest build ever," McCollister says. "Much larger than the 2017 Presidents Cup and that of our largest annual job — The Players Championship. To give you some perspective, this is about 40 percent larger than The Players Championship."
The scope of the first tee area in itself is trendsetting. Shaffer Sports & Events has created an impressive bleacher amphitheater of 3,000 seats. While large, it’s not so revolutionary. But what is unique is a hospitality experience that fans will capture underneath the overhead double-decker stands in which some of the world’s top golfers from the United States and International teams will walk off the practice green and through a "viewing tunnel" before emerging on the first tee.
"It’s the same feeling NFL players get walking out of the tunnel onto the field, and that is sort of going to be electric," says Johno Harris, the event’s chairman and son of longtime Quail Hollow Club president Johnny Harris.
McCollister said Shaffer Sports & Events challenged one of its in-house engineers to design this "bunker" concept of fan viewing, and a prototype was built in the company’s Texas headquarters before its concept will be launched this week.
"It’s certainly a unique build for us," McCollister says. "It’s hospitality underneath the grandstands, like you see at Cowboys Stadium, and we had seen something similar at an event in China. We believe it is going to be a fantastic experience and hopefully the product catches on for us in the future."
The influential elder Harris, a longtime member of Augusta National and numerous other prestigious clubs, is now 75. However, his age isn’t stopping his dreams of Quail Hollow Club and its treacherous closing stretch of holes dubbed The Green Mile from making more major golf inroads against the likes of Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, Oakmont and others.
"From my standpoint the most exciting thing for me is it’s a continuation of what we started back in the old days when my dad and 20 other men and Arnold Palmer got together and decided to build this golf course," Harris says of the course designed in the 1960s. "They did it for the love of the game, for the camaraderie and the opportunity to do something special, and try to bring the best players in the world here. As you talk about growing the game all over the world there is nothing more important than bringing the world together right now to pursue a game like golf.”
Quail Hollow Club will also host the 2025 PGA Championship … and then who knows what lies ahead.
"At the end of the day, would we like to host the Ryder Cup? Sure, who wouldn’t," says Johno Harris. "If that opportunity is there we would certainly step up and take a swing at it."
More than 40,000 fans per day and another one billion TV viewers are expected to be watching this year’s Presidents Cup, tour officials estimate.
"When does it become too big?" Johno Harris asks. "It becomes too big when you don’t have the facility to move people around, and we still have the facilities here to move people."
Tour estimates project the high profile match-play tournament will generate a regional economic impact of more than $100 million.
"Bill Rogers, who is the CEO of Truist Financial Corp., was out here the other night and we were talking and a bunch of people were asking questions about when the Olympics were held in Atlanta," Johnny Harris says. "Bill said the idea of all of the international community focusing on Atlanta was something none of us understood then. Now, it’s a different scale. The following of the international players for the Presidents Cup — focusing on Charlotte and the Carolinas — is going to be a hugely positive opportunity for all of us here to expand, to grow and diversify as a community."
"There are going to be people coming here that have never been to Charlotte or even the state of North Carolina," added Johno Harris. "It is our opportunity to be a showcase, not only with Quail Hollow but to showcase this community since we’ve become an important fabric of this community. This is a way to show we are a can-do city and we’ll show that. Who knows what economic impact this is going to have moving forward? But if you get one large corporation to move here because they said ‘Gosh, Charlotte and this community is great’ then you have done your job. I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t happen."
It’s hard to believe after close to four months of making sure every piece of metal is in place, every screw and bolt tightened, every structure secure for the “city within a city” at Quail Hollow Club it will all be dismantled and hauled away to the next Shaffer Sports & Events gig.
“The tear down is something to itself and it’s a really important part of the job because a lot of this material will go right to building out The Players Championship in Florida," says McCollister, who has planned for almost contingency. McCollister, actually had to return home to Texas on Saturday to pick up some personal items for the week. "It has been such a long run here. I know that sounds dumb to go home to do that but I’ve got to get my tournament clothes."
And to take at least a 24-hour well-earned break.