By TOM MOOR
Tribune Staff Writer
7:18 PM EDT, June 2, 2011
BENTON HARBOR — The St. Joseph-Benton Harbor area could see a large financial windfall when the Senior PGA Championship comes to The Golf Club at Harbor Shores next year, officials reported Thursday.
Nearly 30 local representatives visited the 2011 Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club outside Louisville last weekend in preparation of next year’s event and what it could bring when it visits Benton Harbor in 2012 and 2014.
Wendy Dant Chesser, president of Cornerstone Alliance, said more than 500 million people worldwide will have access to watching the tournament on TV, placing the Twin Cities area in the forefront.
"We’re going to get advertising," she said.
Dant Chesser said at a media roundtable event at Harbor Shores Thursday — consisting of nine community leaders — that about 10,000 to 20,000 people are expected to flood the area each day of the three-day tournament.
"They’re going to stay in our hotels, eat out at our restaurants. ... It’s a generator for our community," she said.
What makes having the championship in the Twin Cities unique — and possibly more profitable for locals — compared to other places where it is held, is the area is only home to about 30,000 people, sending in almost as many visitors as their are residents.
"From the business impact, that’s a cool thing," said Marcus Robinson, a Harbor Shores trustee.
Jerry Price, community development director for the YMCA, said the golf tournament offers a "great opportunity," even after it has left, saying: "It has the ability to change lives."
The exposure could last for several years.
"People want to visit the site they’ve seen on TV," said Ross Smith, director of golf at Harbor Shores. "This could set it up for the next eight to 10 years."
Dant Chesser said it could spur economic development as well, especially if companies called site selectors — who choose locations for other businesses to locate to — are impressed with Benton Harbor during the tournament. That, she said, could correlate into more employment.
"It was built as a game-changer," Dant Chesser said. "We’re looking to spearhead community transformation. Our measure it to integrate this event into the development."
The Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course opened for play last summer. In August, Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller and Arnold Palmer played a round at its grand opening.
Meanwhile, a part of the development of the Harbor Shores community, The River Club, is progressing, Kerry Wright, sales manager for Evergreen Development, said Thursday. The River Club is multiuse residential/commercial complex on the St. Joseph and Paw Paw rivers. The development will include condominiums, town homes, retail shops, restaurants, and a 57-slip deep water marina.
Wright said some of the homes already have been sold, and that the project is moving ahead of schedule.
"We want people to get here, play here and live here," he said. "It’s a whole lifestyle is what we’re selling."
Aside from the golf course and The River Club, Harbor Shores is expected to bring hotels, businesses and several other commercial opportunities.
Staff writer Tom Moor:
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