PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- It’s time to tee off!
The 2019 Honda Classic is officially here.
If you are planning on heading out to PGA National for one the biggest events in the golf world — you’re going to notice some changes.
"We feel like this is our Super Bowl. This is the time where you got that excitement, get the crowds out here and get it rockin' and rollin,'" said Andrew George, Honda Classic tournament director.
The tournament is adding more than 20,000 square feet of expanded venues and hospitality spots, and the added space is not just about watching the golfers.
There is a E-sports venue to attract teens and young adults.
And when it comes to watching the golfers, the tournament has added more public seats. That includes more seating around the signature 17th Hole Par 3, which has been transformed into a stadium-like atmosphere. The entire 17th hole will be enclosed by seating and hospitality areas in 2019.
The tee has been moved toward the water, shortening the hole by 15 yards to 175 yards. That has allowed for a 5,000 square-foot expansion to 40,000 square-feet at The Bear Trap and Cobra Puma Village areas that surround the tee box area. Those areas will now also feature upgraded restroom trailers inside the venue and an addition of over 500 stadium seats.
“It’s all about having the foresight to try to continue to build what our customer base is really looking for. If we don’t improve, then we’re going backwards," said Kenneth Kennerly, Honda Classic executive director.
A new elevated VIP area has been added behind the tee called The Bear Trap Reserve, which will feature upgraded soft seating and a private bar and drink rail with the best sightlines of the entire Bear Trap structure.
Tito's Stillhouse Lounge, with its stadium seating and an enclosed lounge with premium sightlines to all the action, has been expanded from 4,400 square-feet to 6,400 square-feet.
The United Technologies Patriot's Outpost, where military personnel past and present are honored with free admission and special hospitality, has been increased 2,000 square-feet to 9,750 square-feet.
They're also expanding food options. Click here for details .
Fireworks are planned for Friday and Saturday night. Concerts will be held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. The kids and family day will take place on Saturday.
About 1,600 volunteers are putting a lot of hard work into this year's event.
“You think about this setup for this, it's a really a 14-month cycle. We start planning in December from the year previous for the tournament and it goes all the way through the years, every little detail that we can try to put together," said George.
Organizers said they are trying to meet growing demand this year.
“The Bear Trap for instance is larger. The UTC military appreciation pavilion is larger. All of our structures have continued to grow because frankly the demand is in our marketplace. We see it from a corporate side. We see it from a philanthropic side, and we certainly see it from our customer base," said Kennerly.
County leaders also see this as an economic machine. The Honda Classic brings in about $58 million economic dollars every year.
In 2018, nearly 225,000 spectators came out over the seven-day competition. That’s up 20,000 people from the year before.
Charity is another big part of the Honda Classic. Each year, the Honda Classic Cares donates millions. Last year, $4.55 million was donated to mostly children’s charities.
Big names like last year's winner, Justin Thomas and West Palm Beach-native Brooks Koepka will be here to play. Tiger Woods will not be here because he’s taking the week off in between other golf tournaments.
“The excitement around the community is at an all time high. People are really looking forward to another great Honda Classic. This is year 13 for us, and I tell ya, we’re just growing every year. This is gonna be bigger and better," said Kennerly.
On Wednesday, the ProAm event will take place throughout the day and professionals start practicing. Amateurs are invited to accompany them for a fun day of golf. Musician Kenny G will be among the celebrity players.
On Thursday, Military Appreciation Day will take place.
Individual daily passes can be bought online or at the gate:
Wednesday, Feb. 27 (Pro-Am)
$30 advance / $40 at gate
Thursday, Feb 28 - Sunday, Mar. 3 (Rounds 1-4)
$50 advcance / $65 at gate
The tournament runs through Sunday.