Ryder Cup: The build-out at Whistling Straits is virtually double what it was to host the PGA Championship

·4 min read

HAVEN, Wisconsin — On a bright, sunny day in August, you can almost hear the noise and imagine the scene that will soon envelop this corner of the Badger State.

You climb the stands of a temporary stadium being constructed on three sides of the first tee box on the Straits course, look out over the hole and see hospitality chalets draped alongside the fairway. And out beyond the green, you glimpse Lake Michigan, shimmering in the distance.

It’s quiet now. There are workers in the bleachers and golfers on the course.

But come next month, this hole and all the rest of this splendid property will be crammed with noisy, jubilant spectators gathered at Whistling Straits to see the best American and European golfers compete for the 43rd Ryder Cup.

Postponed a year by the coronavirus pandemic, the build-out for the Ryder Cup is taking shape.

It is a gargantuan project, scaled to host up to 45,000 people a day — a population roughly the size of Fond du Lac.

“We’re essentially building a city here,” said Brandon Haney, operations manager for the Ryder Cup.

Practice rounds begin Sept. 21, the opening ceremony is Sept. 23 and the matches unfold over three drama-filled days, Sept. 24-26.

The Europeans won the last Ryder Cup in 2018.

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Whistling Straits has been a host for major golf events in the past, including three PGA Championships.

But the Ryder Cup is bigger than anything seen on this two-mile slice of land along Lake Michigan.

An array of facilities blanket the hilly, links-style property, including a main gift shop larger than a football field. Yes, shopping is next to golfing at an event like this.

There’s more to come, including TV towers as the world tunes into the golfing spectacle.

“We’re bringing everything in from printers to WiFi, the restrooms, the catering, anything you can think of we essentially bring in,” Haney said.

Haney, 31, a DeForest native, has been on-site for three years, helping prepare for this moment. He’s part of a team with the PGA of America that works hand in hand with Destination Kohler, the hospitality and real estate arm of Kohler Co.

A University of Minnesota graduate, who played some football, Haney was an intern at his first Ryder Cup in 2012 as he was trying to break into the sports business.

On a tour of the course, Haney ticks off some numbers.

They’re building around 1.3 million square feet of temporary infrastructure — roughly double the square footage of the build-out for the 2015 PGA.

They’re also putting down 1 million square feet of carpet.

There’ll be seven miles worth of chain link fencing.

During the event, 500 golf carts and 1,000 radios will be used.

The build-out began May 24. Oak Creek-based Arena Americas is the major contractor erecting the site. Raleigh, North Carolina-based Stewart Sports and Events designed the project.

It’s not an easy build, propping structures on an undulating site.

“The course itself makes it a challenge just from the elevation standpoint,” Haney said. “A lot of the floors out here are quite high to accommodate those elevation changes.”

Out by the 18th hole, workers are putting up bleachers.

“Really, we’re getting to the point where we’re transitioning from the large structure construction to the detailed work, so you’ll start to see the red mesh going up on the scaffolding, the white picket fence going up along the walkways,” he said.

If there’s a downtown for this temporary city, it’s a place called Dye Plaza, named after the late Pete and Alice Dye. It was Pete Dye who designed the famed courses here.

At Dye Plaza, there will be a bus terminal, the main entry, a bar, concessions, pavilions, an information tent for the next Ryder Cup in Rome, and a tent for some of the 4,000 volunteers who are instrumental to stage the event.

The opening ceremony will also be held here, so there’s still a stage to be built in an amphitheater.

All of it is designed to highlight an event that is among golf’s most storied competitions.

So, what will opening day be like when the U.S. faces off against Europe?

Haney envisions a rush of fans trying to get to the seats at the 1st tee.

“Everyone wants to get there,” he said. “Friday morning, 7 a.m.”

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