Ryder Cup grandstands, big tents taking shape at Whistling Straits

Sheboygan County golf course prepares to host Ryder Cup
Posted at 6:01 AM, Aug 02, 2021

HAVEN — The massive build-out in preparation for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits is already taking shape nearly two months before the global golf event comes to Sheboygan County.

A local company is behind the huge project to build tents and grandstands supporting players, media, and 40,000 plus fans each day of the tournament in late September.

The large, temporary structures, are already rising up from the rolling landscape that is Whistling Straits. Its picturesque setting on a Lake Michigan bluff is now dotted with scaffold, tenting, and plywood. The statistics for the build-out created by Arena Americas are staggering.

The Oak Creek company is erecting 600,000 square feet of tenting, 900,000 square feet of carpeting, and 1.2 million square feet of flooring.

“It’s just a massive undertaking,” said Naill Gaffney. The General Manager of Golf and Seating for Arena Americas has been on site since June 1. “Biggest job we’ll do for the PGA,” Gaffney explained. “It’s probably two and a bit times the size of a normal PGA Championship.”

Whistling Straits has hosted the PGA Championship three times in the past. Gaffney explained, fans who’ve attended previous tournaments at the Straits will notice more and larger structures. “Hugely different. We’re building facilities, concessions, restrooms all over the place.”

One of the most notable differences from the previous events will be a double-decked, two-sided, massive hospitality tent that runs the length of the fairways between holes one and nine on the Straits course. Tents like that are big money and exclusive access. Gaffney explained the desire for that at the Ryder Cup is what’s driving the larger build on site.

For the average fan, grandstand seats are largely first-come, first served.

The huge structure to accommodate about 3,500 fans at the first tee will be a premium seat. The first tee is about 1 mile from the fan entrance. Gaffney says fans looking to score a chair will have to be there when the gate first opens, and get ready to race.

“You’ve got to run really fast from… the entrance area. It’s a long way. It will be a hard run for whoever makes it first," said Gaffney.

Right now, Gaffney is working his construction crew of about 120 people six days a week. He’s hoping to add 20 more builders down the stretch and expecting to be going seven days a week by late September.

“I’ll relax when the event is over,” he admitted. “I’m sure we’ll be working last minute for certain things that will happen the last week before the event itself.”

Gaffney has worked events all over the world, and himself attended multiple Ryder Cups. The Irishman says he’s enjoyed his time in Wisconsin and declared himself already a Packers fan. Asked if he might root for the Americans in the Ryder Cup, his loyalty was unwavering. “No. No. No. Go Europe!”

The event pits the best American golfers against the top Europeans in the game and alternates venues between the U.S. and Europe. The Ryder Cup was postponed last year, due to concerns over COVID-19. Wisconsin native and professional golfer Steve Stricker is the U.S. team captain.

It is scheduled to take place from Sept. 21 through the 26. For more information on the tournament, click here.

For more information on Oak Creek Based Arena Americas, click here.

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