|By Angela Shah, The Dallas Morning News|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 16, 2005 - Golf fans from across the country have a standing appointment to be in Irving each May to catch some of the sport's biggest stars play on the manicured greens of the Four Seasons Resort and Club.
The Byron Nelson tournament, which wrapped up Sunday, attracts plenty of those who are more interested in the goings-on around the course, too.
In the main pavilion and the dozens of private corporate suites, power brokers and wannabes join the sports fans, nibbling and drinking, seeing and being seen.
It all adds up to a big payoff -- beyond bragging rights -- for both Irving and the region.
During the week of the Nelson, North Texas gets a boost of $38.8 million -- $22.5 million of which comes from nonresidents, according to the Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Still, the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which donates tournament proceeds to its charities, wants to dig deeper into understanding what those dollars represent.
What types of tourists are coming to the event and why?
Where do they stay?
What do they spend their money on, besides the tournament?
Do they come to the Nelson as tourists or is attendance a way to market their companies and the region?
To begin answering those questions, the club began an economic development study of the Nelson.
"We want to make sure we're smart about this," said Sammy Papert, a club member in charge of the survey effort. "Are we reaching to our audiences as well as we can?"
The first part of their study includes a survey of visitors as they leave each day of the tournament.
Their goal is to interview 500 people, using a 26-question survey with all types of questions -- from how much they will spend on lodging to whether they know the tournament's sponsor.
"We're trying to get a sense of why they're here and what they're spending, beyond golf and the entertainment at the pavilion," said Marty Forken, of Harvey Research Inc. in Fairport, N.Y., who led the surveyors.
Mr. Forken will calculate the responses and deliver them to University of North Texas economist Bernard Weinstein, who will use the numbers for an economic development study.
"Sports tourism and conventions are a huge industry in the metroplex," Mr. Weinstein said, speaking of the Nelson, the Breeder's Cup and NASCAR races. "These big national events bring hundreds of thousands of people in the region. It's part of our economic base."
They can help charities, too.
The Nelson has raised more than $80 million since 1969 to aid vulnerable children and their families. Last year, it donated $6.1 million to the Salesmanship Club Youth and Family Centers.
For the Nelson's sponsor and host, the economic impact is already clear.
Electronic Data Systems Corp. has its corporate logo emblazoned on programs and merchandise.
Network television shots of the Four Seasons golf course each day of the tournament are invaluable to the resort.
EDS agreed last year to extend its sponsorship through 2010, at an estimated cost of $6 million. The Plano-based computer services company has also credited the Nelson with generating around $600 million in business.
The Four Seasons spends "well over a million dollars" getting prepared for the tournament, hotel manager Craig Reid said.
"There are enormous costs to host it," he said. "It's an investment on our part. It's probably the single largest marketing initiative we have."
The hotel has its highest dollar volume week of the year during the tournament, Mr. Reid said. "There's a halo effect that creates increased demand especially in the weeks leading up to the tour and a month or two right after," he added.
Another way he measures the tournament's impact?
"We sold more margaritas this weekend than any month of the year," he said.
To see more of The Dallas Morning News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dallasnews.com.
Copyright (c) 2005, The Dallas Morning News
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail email@example.com. EDS,