A Sign of a Hot Real Estate Market? Developers Are the Latest Group Putting Down Big Bucks to Schmooze Clients at the Players Championship

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There's a good chance that thousands of people who attend The Players Championship this weekend won't be concerned about golf -- at least, not for the most part.

They'll be worried about impressing the clients they've invited and keeping them happy.

It's called corporate hospitality.

The Players, which begins its first round of play today at the Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, is just as much a place to socialize as it is for golf enthusiasts to watch the sport. And companies across the board have long used the event to schmooze clients and show appreciation to their customers.

This year, land developers snatched up five big-ticket hospitality packages (which range from $26,000 to more than $65,000 for the week), in an arena traditionally occupied by accountants, lawyers and investment brokers. Janet Leone, the tournament's marketing director, said it was the largest one-time buy-in among real estate companies in the last 18 years she's worked The Players.

The event has been -- and continues to be -- an avenue for developers and real estate brokers to ramp up advertising of their nearby communities. The ads target visitors unfamiliar with the area and emphasize the glamorous and stress-free lifestyle typically associated with golf.

"We felt it was the best bang for our buck," said Will Morgan, who bought additional ad space in special Players publications for Vestcor Communities' condos.

Morgan, who will spend at least one day doing business at The Players this weekend, said developers tend to be the wooed and not the wooer because they can bring big business to banks and attorneys. Despite that, he isn't surprised that developers are putting down extra money to entertain their own customers directly on the green.

"There's been a lot more focus on Northeast Florida [real estate]," he said.

Centex Destination Properties, the second-home and resort division of Dallas-based Centex Corp., decided this year to buy a dining chalet on the 16th green. For $40,000, that package includes 26 tickets to the chalet per day (today through Sunday), lunch, full bar service, hors d'oeuvres and special parking passes.

The resort division has several communities in the Palm Coast area, most of which have golf-related amenities. Paul Bobik, Centex Destination Properties vice president of sales and marketing, said the company has a "critical mass" of Florida residents who enjoy golf.

The Players will pay off, Bobik said, because happy property owners are more likely to refer the company to their friends. …


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