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Golf classic tees up rental boom

CHARLESTON, W.Va.--The Greenbrier Classic golf tournament has teed up a lodging rental boom in southeastern West Virginia, with prices ranging from $45 per person per night for a room at Snowshoe to $35,000 a week for a house at the Greenbrier Sporting Club.

The Professional Golfers' Association Tournament, to be played at The Greenbrier Resort's Old White Course July 26 to Aug. 1, is expected to draw up to 50,000 spectators a day - a potential total of 200,000 during the week.

Spokeswoman Lynn Swann said the resort's 721 rooms already are booked. Tournament director Tim McNeely said many of the tournament players, their families, tour sponsors and others in the PGA entourage will stay there.

The several thousand people who follow the tour will occupy many other rooms in the area, McNeely said. They include caddies and representatives of companies like Titleist and Callaway, which make golf balls, golf clubs and accessories.

Local real estate agents Greg Allman (on the Internet at www.gregallman.net) and Martha Hilton (www.marthahilton.com) are leading the effort to rent privately owned rooms and homes in the region.

"I've been in real estate 21 years and I've not seen anything of the magnitude this has had so far," Allman said. "It's only going to get stronger up to the tournament.

"Right now we're getting a tremendous amount of calls from people who are working the event - volunteers, production crews. Spectators have not started calling yet.

"We've had a huge number of requests from people who want to be within walking distance of the tournament," he said.

Although all of the properties he has listed are off the resort's grounds, it is possible to find a place within walking distance. For example, Allman has had listings for several homes in Villa Park, a subdivision that abuts The Greenbrier.

"The hardest part is, this is the first year so there's a little bit of guess work," he said.

"The million-dollar question homeowners ask is, 'How much can we get for our house for the week?'

"I've talked to people at Augusta and Pinehurst (where other PGA tournaments are played). They said if a property is relatively close, you can expect to get about $1,000 per bedroom for the week."

Allman said the least expensive listing he currently has is $1,250 for a two-bedroom cottage about 25 miles away at Salt Sulphur Springs in Monroe County for the week and the most expensive is $5,000 for a five- bedroom home.

"I've had at least a dozen homeowners say, 'When you get to $10,000, call me back.' "

Homeowners are offering a variety of perks ranging from breakfast to cocktails in the evening.

One potential client may offer a property that will accommodate 24 adults, Allman said. "They're talking about offering ground passes to the tournament, all of the food at the tournament, a shuttle service to and from the golf course and a chef service for breakfast and dinner," he said.

Allman said tournament lodging has become a full-time job for his wife, Jill.

"We're gearing our ads right now toward looking for properties," Allman said. "Calls are starting to pick up. I think in another month we'll wish we had a whole lot more."

In Lewisburg, which is only 10 miles from The Greenbrier, many of the Hampton Inn's 60 rooms have been reserved for media representatives. Next door, most of the rooms at the Fairfield Inn have been reserved for the CBS crew that will televise the last two days of the tournament.

Even so, there are lots of rooms available. One need only look beyond the obvious.

Snowshoe Mountain has about 1,400 rooms in its rental program.

"Almost that entire inventory is available," said spokeswoman Laura Parquette. "During the summer our booking window tends to be pretty short so now is a great time to book to take advantage of that inventory. We have a full range of options from studio hotel rooms to large condos, townhouses and single-family homes." Rates start at $45 per person per night.

Snowshoe's summer season will be in full swing during the Greenbrier Classic, which means its award-winning Raven golf course will be open and about 15 dining options, from sandwiches to pizza to sushi to barbecue, will be available on the mountain.

For Greenbrier Classic packages, go to Snowshoe's Web site, www.snowshoemtn.com, and click on "Deals and Packages." Snowshoe is about a 1 1/2-hour drive from The Greenbrier.

The Resort at Glade Springs, which is about 45 miles away, is offering a four-night package that starts at $147 per person, per night. The package includes overnight accommodations, breakfast and a complimentary shuttle to and from the tournament. Weekly badges to the tournament are sold separately and must be purchased in advance. Glade Springs is about a one-hour drive from The Greenbrier.

Although The Greenbrier is booked, it's possible to rent a home on the resort property through the Greenbrier Sporting Club.

Property Manager Allen Wills (his e-mail address is Allen_Wills@greenbrier.com) said the club has rented three homes so far ranging from $14,000 to $18,000 and has four homes available at prices ranging from $22,000 to $35,000.

State Tourism Commissioner Betty Carver said her staff has asked hoteliers to e-mail her office weekly with information about available lodging. She said the information will be used when people call the state's tourism office (1-800-CALL WVA) and forwarded for use by Welcome Center staff.

The state has also developed a Web page for the Greenbrier Classic. Go to http://wvtourism.com and on the right under "Special Interests" click on "Golf."

Some lodging is easily overlooked. The Greenbrier State Forest, for example, has cabins - and it is located just minutes from the tournament. Pipestem Resort State Park has lodging and features an 18-hole championship course designed by Geoffrey Cornish.  "Check with the state parks to see their availability," Carver advised.

As the tournament nears, the Greenbrier Convention and Visitors Bureau will monitor lodging availability in conjunction with the Pocahontas Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Southern West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau in Beckley.

"You can always call our 800 number or send us an e-mail, but I would say, start doing your research very quickly," Carver said.

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.

 


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