BMW Championship suites taking shape at Conway Farms
Dozens of massive hospitality tents have popped up at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest in anticipation of this weekend's BMW Championship.
And even though "farm" is in the name of the venue, those who are lucky enough to have a ticket into one of the tents will hardly be roughing it.
"It's not your normal pop-up circus tent you might see at a state fair," said Vince Pellegrino, vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association, which organizes the BMW Championship. "Some of these are nice enough to live in."
In fact, organizers use the term "chalet" to describe each tent.
As many as 30,000 golf fans are expected to make their way to Conway Farms every day of tournament play, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday. Of that number, about 7,000 will be in the exclusive hospitality areas that have been purchased by businesses looking to entertain clients or treat their employees.
The suites, which range in price from $18,000 to $300,000, boast a variety of features such as climate-controlled interiors, premium open bar service, and buffets with carving stations. All the while, those lucky enough to have a ticket inside will have some of the best views of the course.
Take the sold-out Clubhouse Suite, which will grant 150 guests access to the Conway Farms clubhouse dining room and adjacent patio off the 18th hole for prime views of tournament play. It's the most expensive package at $300,000.
Meanwhile, "Super Suites" are 30-by-66-foot chalets at the 16th and 17th tees that each have room for 200 guests and are priced at $240,000 and $260,000, respectively.
Buffet service is standard in all chalets, but customized food and beverage options are also available, Pellegrino said.
"If they want to have hot dogs or hamburgers, or if they want to have steak and lobster, it's up to the individual corporations to make that decision," he said.
Even those who aren't connected with a company renting a chalet can still get a taste of elegance. The United Airlines Fairway Club offers fans an air-conditioned chalet with food and beverage and TVs throughout airing live tournament coverage. Prices for Thursday and Friday are $75, and $85 on Saturday and Sunday.
A standard grounds ticket is $40 per day or $100 for all four days.
Many of the chalets offer an upgraded interior decor package that allows business owners to select a wooden, built-in bar, TVs, and live scoring terminals.
The name of each business sponsor also will be prominently placed at the entrance of each suite.
As the chief sponsor of the event, BMW has the largest hospitality venue on the course. The BMW Owners Pavillion, located between the 17th tee and 16th green, is an exclusive area for anyone who owns a BMW vehicle; to get in, all you have to do is show the doorman your car key.
The front portion of Conway Farms' parking lot is also reserved for BMW owners.
"They really take care of their owners," Pellegrino said.
BMW owners also get complimentary admission to the tournament on Thursday, though organizers are asking them to make a donation to the Evans Scholars Foundation, the Western Golf Association's charitable trust that provides full, four-year tuition and room and board college scholarships to eligible caddies.
A host of local and national corporations have rented out the chalets, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Waste Management, Wintrust Financial, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Anheuser-Busch, PricewaterhouseCoopers, FedEx and KPMG.
Pellegrino said a golf tournament such as the BMW Championship allows those in the corporate world to network with clients or prospective clients during an extended period of time, unlike baseball or football games.
A golf tournament, he says, is an all-day experience.
"You can truly engage your customers in between shots," Pellegrino said. "There's some down time in golf. You're not hanging on every pitch or play. I think customers like it because it's unique. Golf is a unique sport."
"The corporate community and golf fans of Chicago have really embraced this championship."
What's a tent worth?The luxury tents put up for this weekend's BMW Championship are spiffy enough to warrant the name "chalet." Here's what some of them cost:
Your economy chalet: $18,000.
Super Suites: $240,000 for the chalet perched by the 16th tee; $260,000 for the one by the 17th tee. The 30-by-66-foot chalets have room for 200 guests.
The Clubhouse Suite: $300,000. Seats 150 guests with access to the Conway Farms clubhouse dining room and adjacent patio off the 18th hole for the best views.
Suites can include: Climate-controlled interiors, premium open bar service, and buffets with carving stations. Buffet service is standard, but customized food and beverage options are available.
For the rest of us: A standard grounds ticket is $40 per day or $100 for all four days.