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July 11, 2014

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tourism column:

Could Nevada host the 2059 Ryder Cup?

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A view of Hole 10 on the Chase golf course at the Coyote Springs development 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

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Beyond the Sun

Someday, the developers of the PGA Golf Club at Coyote Springs hope the course in the high desert northeast of Las Vegas will play host to the Ryder Cup.

Yes, I’m talking about the Ryder Cup. The one that pits the best U.S. golfers against the best of Europe. The one that’s played at fabled courses such as Royal Birkdale, Valhalla, the Belfry and Oakland Hills.

Forgive the developers of Coyote Springs for thinking big. But they also know that their new course — the Chase, designed by Jack Nicklaus — is one of Southern Nevada’s best-kept secrets. And, realistically, they know a Ryder Cup bid isn’t in the cards for at least 50 years, but at least they’re thinking about it.

“When you’re driving up to it on U.S. 93 from Las Vegas, it kind of sneaks up on you,” said Josh Whellams, a corporate vice president of development.

That’s true. When you peel away from the traffic on Interstate 15 on what is known as the Great Basin Highway, you’ll be amazed at the topography of the mountain ranges that line the vast desert valley. All the literature says Coyote Springs is less than an hour from the Strip, but you have to be cruising pretty fast to reach the course, which has been open since April, in 60 minutes.

But once you do, you enter a whole new world. The course is lush and green and has water hazards on 11 holes. The desert is quiet, peaceful, perfect for golf. There’s an occasional trace of desert wildlife in the area, and the Nicklaus track has received kudos from some top golf publications.

Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and T&L Golf each had the Chase on their lists of best courses to open in 2008. Harvey Whittemore, chairman and founder of the Wingfield Nevada Group, which is developing Coyote Springs, called it “the golf rankings trifecta.” It’s the first time a Las Vegas-area course has made all three lists.

Since the Chase is open, the publicity is making the course one of the must-play attractions in the West and is contributing to Southern Nevada’s tourism economy by catering to serious golfers whose passion is getting to the world’s elite courses.

But what is really exciting are the big plans for the area. Mike Sizemore, director of golf at Coyote Springs, said the Chase is the first of three courses planned in the area. In addition to the existing course, a private course is planned as well as a PGA stadium-style track. The next course will be a collaborative design by Nicklaus and Pete Dye, and developers expect to break ground on it in late 2010.

The three courses and the amenities around them will become the nation’s second PGA Village. The existing village, which features competition on four courses, corporate outings, instruction and amenities for play-and-stay gatherings, is in Port St. Lucie on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Sizemore said the idea is for Coyote Springs to become the Western version of the Florida facility.

The first phase of the PGA Village at Coyote Springs already is under way with a 12,000-square-foot clubhouse with a restaurant and bar, private locker rooms, a PGA golf shop, a meeting facility and an event courtyard. A 20-acre practice facility will include a 100,000-square-foot tee area with 13 target greens.

Phase II of the development will include the PGA learning center, a short-game practice area, an amphitheater for group golfing instruction, swing-analysis areas, a kids camp and a fitness center.

Golf isn’t the only thing planned at Coyote Springs.

The nearly 43,000 acres under development — nearly twice the size of Summerlin — will include 20,000 acres for residential and commercial development. The acreage is entitled for up to 29,000 homes in 11 villages.

Pardee Homes is the master-planner but other builders are expected to be a part of the development.

Whellams and Sizemore acknowledge that the rough economy is slowing the project, but golfers are finding Coyote Springs and are making the trip through Las Vegas to see and experience the place.

The group has signed an agreement with golf courses in Mesquite to market the place so that those who find their way to those courses can make their way to Coyote Springs well before the golfing world trains its eyes there for the 2059 Ryder Cup.

Candidate bows out

Kim Stoll, the 35-year Nevadan who most recently was the director of marketing, advertising and publicity for the Peppermill in Reno, has bowed out of the race for Nevada Tourism Commission director.

Stoll was one of six finalists selected by the commission last month for inclusion on a list of three to be forwarded to Gov. Jim Gibbons for consideration. Commission officials were notified last week that Stoll has taken another job and has asked to be removed from the list.

Stoll’s strengths were that she not only had experience with major Nevada resorts, having worked at Reno’s Atlantis and Peppermill, but she also held positions in rural Nevada — at Cactus Pete’s in Jackpot and at Laughlin’s Gold River Resort.

The remaining finalists are scheduled to interview with the commission March 2 in Carson City. They are Pasquale Barone, a former United Airlines manager of international sales; Tamara Hollingsworth, a Carson City resident with extensive experience marketing the Lake Tahoe region; Tom Jensen, a former Nevada resident who developed an organization that marketed Lake Tahoe in Argentina, Peru and Vietnam; Maine resident Donn Lewis, who created the “I Love NY” campaign; and Charles Pullen, a Reno-based sales representative for a Florida company that markets Northern Nevada and a former executive with Reno’s Silver Legacy and Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace.

Economic stimulus

President Barack Obama had nothing to do with it, but enterprising WestJet, one of the few airlines that added flights at McCarran International Airport last year, provided a little economic stimulus to the tourism industry.

WestJet offered a $50 discount on round-trip flights between the United States and Canada last week for passengers who booked online and used a special promotional code “OBAMA.”

The airline said it was commemorating Obama’s recent first trip to Canada.

The Calgary-based carrier averages 10 daily round trips to nine Canadian destinations from Las Vegas. The discount carrier is developing a code-share partnership with Southwest Airlines.

More US Airways cuts

US Airways, the second-busiest air carrier at McCarran, is cutting six daily flights to five destinations beginning in early May.

The Tempe, Ariz.-based airline will discontinue daily flights to Baltimore; Portland, Ore.; Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta; and two daily flights to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The cuts are part of the airline’s strategy to reduce its overall seat capacity. US Airways will offer one-stop flights to the five destinations through its Phoenix, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C., hubs.

Earlier this month, US Airways confirmed that it would cut dozens of jobs at McCarran in a nationwide trimming affecting 10 airports. Chief Executive Doug Parker said 233 positions would be cut nationwide with Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Tucson being the hardest hit.

The most recent flight cuts will reduce its presence to an average 63 daily flights from 69 and the airline will reduce the number of cities it serves nonstop from 28 to 23.

Other carriers serve the markets with nonstop flights where US Airways is making cuts. Southwest Airlines has three daily flights to Baltimore. Three Canadian airlines offer round trips to Calgary, including two a day on WestJet, nine a week on Air Canada and two a week on Sunwing Airlines.

WestJet has two flights a day and Air Canada has two a week to and from Edmonton. Southwest and Alaska Airlines each have 20 flights a week to and from Portland.

To and from Kennedy Airport, four round trips a day are offered by JetBlue, 26 a week by Delta Air Lines and 13 a week by Virgin America.

US Airways has steadily decreased its presence at McCarran over the last 18 months.

The airline once had about 140 daily round trips in and out of Las Vegas and operated a night hub at McCarran, connecting travelers to other destinations in the late evening. The night hub was eliminated last summer when fuel costs soared and it became more economical to ground planes than fly them with empty seats.

Last month, in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the airline indicated it would cut capacity by 8 percent to 10 percent in 2009, but at the time it didn’t say whether Las Vegas would be affected.

Free drinks

Free nonalcoholic beverages are returning on US Airways.

Beginning March 1, soft drinks, juices and bottled water will be offered at no charge in the coach cabin. The change in policy was announced last week.

US Airways began charging $2 a drink Aug. 1 as a source of ancillary revenue and it will continue to charge for checking bags and for the use of pillows and blankets. The airline anticipates raising $400 million to $500 million in 2009 for those services.

But US Airways found it was one of the few carriers charging for drinks and executives finally acknowledged that it would be better to change its soda stance.

Southwest to Boston

Southwest Airlines, McCarran’s busiest carrier, will begin flying to Boston’s Logan International Airport by fall, the company has announced.

The Dallas-based airline, which averages 218 round trips a day through McCarran, had no details on whether it would offer nonstop flights to Boston from Las Vegas. The route currently is served by US Airways with two flights a day and JetBlue with one a day.

Southwest currently flies to Providence, R.I., and to Manchester, N.H., each about a 90-minute drive from Boston. The airline indicated its Boston schedule would start conservatively, using two gates at Logan and that the Boston service would supplement existing flights to Providence and Manchester.

Southwest began flying to Providence in 1996 and Manchester in 1998. Currently, Southwest offers one nonstop flight a day to each city from Las Vegas.

Southwest executives said the company’s schedule optimization strategy is enabling the company to add Boston routes at a time when the airline is cutting 4.4 percent of its seat capacity over 2008. In Las Vegas, the airline has cut about 7 percent of its capacity since January 2008.

The Boston announcement bolsters Southwest’s strategy to serve major metropolitan airports as well as secondary airports. Next week, the airline will inaugurate service to Minneapolis with eight daily round trips to Chicago’s Midway Airport.

Hawaiian says aloha

The Hawaiian tourism market has always been good to Las Vegas with Boyd Gaming among the most aggressive at courting visitors from the islands.

Now, Hawaiian tourists — as well as Southern Nevadans who want to get away to the islands — have a new ride.

Beginning last week, Hawaiian Airlines, which offered two nonstop round trips a day between Honolulu and Las Vegas, added a third flight operating four times a week on that route.

The new flight, which has Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday departures, arrives in Las Vegas at 4:35 p.m., with the return flights leaving at 6:05 p.m. and arriving in Honolulu at 9:20 p.m.

Incidentally, midweek flights are available on Hawaiian from Las Vegas to the islands for $150 one way.

Bags to Go

A fifth off-airport baggage check-in location has opened at the front desk of the Venetian.

After a successful trial run during the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the new SpeedCheck Advance off-site check-in counter opened permanently in time to catch those attending the recent MAGIC Marketplace fashion trade show.

The new site, operated by Bags to Go, a company that is contracted to operate McCarran’s off-airport check-in program, is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and serves customers flying Southwest Airlines or US Airways. Eventually, more airlines are expected to be added.

Four other off-airport locations serve Delta, Frontier and United as well as Southwest and US Airways. They’re at the Luxor, the central concourse of the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Sands Expo Center and the McCarran Rent-A-Car Center.

Bags can be checked for $20 per customer and boarding passes can be obtained at those sites at no cost.

McCarran’s off-airport check-in service has been in place since May 2006.

Richard N. Velotta covers tourism for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at 259-4061 or at [email protected]

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