Wanted: Sheboygan area hotel development

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When the PGA of America announced that Whistling Straits, the Kohler Co.-owned golf course north of Sheboygan, would host the PGA Championship in 2010 and 2015, plus the Ryder Cup in 2020, it attached a significant caveat to the Ryder Cup assignment.
The golf course located on bluffs along Lake Michigan will host the Ryder Cup in 2020, "subject to sufficient guaranteed quality hotel rooms," the PGA of America said.
Kohler Co. officials say that means an additional 1,600 quality hotel rooms must be built within a 40-mile radius of the golf course by the end of 2014, in order to host the Ryder Cup.
Although the Sheboygan area hosted record crowds for the 2004 PGA Championship, more high-quality hotel rooms are needed for the Ryder Cup because that event relies more on corporate clients than the PGA Championship does, Kohler Co. chairman, president and chief executive officer Herbert Kohler Jr. said in a press conference after the announcement by the PGA.
The PGA counts 848 existing high-quality hotel rooms within 40 miles of Whistling Straits, Kohler Co. officials say. Those rooms are at The American Club in Kohler, the Inn on Woodlake in Kohler, the Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center in Sheboygan, the Inn on Maritime Bay in Manitowoc and the Holiday Inn in Manitowoc.
During his press conference, Kohler said his company may add 60 rooms to the Inn on Woodlake, but adding more rooms would not be feasible without also adding more resort amenities.
Can the Sheboygan region nearly triple its number of quality hotel rooms in just 10 years to meet the Ryder Cup requirement?
"It’s really so hard to predict," said Dee Olsen, executive director of the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce. "In the last five years, we have doubled our tourism revenues, and that doesn’t count 2004 with the PGA Championship and the opening of Blue Harbor."
The worldwide publicity Sheboygan County received from hosting the 2004 PGA Championship could attract more visitors to Sheboygan and increase the market for hotel rooms, Olsen said. If additional attractions are built in Sheboygan during the next 10 years, that could also increase the market for new hotel rooms.
Sheboygan County has several other hotels in addition to the three noted by the PGA, but presumably they do not meet the PGA’s standards of "guaranteed quality hotel rooms." A PGA spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Perhaps the most noteworthy omission from the PGA’s list of quality hotels in the Sheboygan area is The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake. The resort has 174 suites and is in the middle of an expansion project that will be completed this year and will increase the number of suites to 222. The condominium suites are sold to individuals or businesses. However, when the owners of the suites are not using them, they are available for guests, similar to any other hotel room.
The PGA may be concerned about the availability of those suites if the owners want to use them during the Ryder Cup. However, the condominium suites should not disquality The Osthoff Resort from the PGA’s list of quality hotels in the Sheboygan area, said Lola Roeh, general manager of the resort.
"The (only) difference is our suites are owned by many owners, and Mr. Kohler’s suites are owned by one owner," Roeh said.
Many of the Osthoff suites have two rooms and can be used like two separate hotel rooms. If all of those rooms are used that way, the resort has the capacity of a 370-room hotel, Roeh said.
The Osthoff, located about 20 miles from Whistling Straits, is a AAA Four Diamond property, and its suites vary in size from 675 to 2,100 square feet. The resort hosted several guests who attended the 2004 PGA Championship and the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Roeh said.
"We are one of the closest venues (to Sheboygan) for quality rooms," she said.
The Fox Hills Resort in Mishicot, about 40 miles north of Whistling Straits, could also have quality hotel rooms available for the Ryder Cup. The resort has about 340 rooms, most of which overlook the resort’s 45 holes of golf. The resort has a combination of traditional hotel rooms and time share villas. The villas are available for other guests when the owners are not using them.
The 40-mile radius rule, included in Kohler Co.’s contract with the PGA, means hotel rooms in Green Bay and Milwaukee do not count toward the quality hotel room target, even though several people attending the 2004 PGA Championship stayed at Milwaukee-area hotels.
Hotel development in rapidly growing areas of central Ozaukee County near Interstate 43, including Grafton, Saukville and Port Washington, could provide more rooms toward the Ryder Cup requirement because those areas are within 40 miles of Whistling Straits. Some hotel developers have pitched projects in Grafton.
Kohler is hoping to gain some leniency from the PGA’s hotel rules if the 2010 PGA Championship is as big of a success as the 2004 championship was. The Ryder Cup would provide an even greater economic boost for the Sheboygan area than the PGA Championship, Kohler Co. executives say.
"(The Ryder Cup) would be a major coup, simply because of its prestige," Olsen said. "Whether we can meet (the hotel room requirement) remains to be seen."
February 4, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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