"Ray of hope": Augustans react to news of limited patrons for 2021 Masters
After the announcement by the Augusta National Golf Club to limit patrons for the 2021 Masters Tournament, local businesses and officials are glad to at least have some patrons this time around.
“I applaud, certainly, the fact they are focusing on health and safety as they continue to make their decisions,” said Bennish Brown, the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO. “I also feel we can’t read beyond what has been included in this announcement. I think they’ve been very careful; I think they’ve been very intentional on how they phrased this news.”
Brown said Tuesday's announcement gives Augusta’s business and tourism industry a “ray of hope.”
“It’s an expansion over last year, over November, and we are thankful for that,” he said. “It’s still going to be a tough year for tourism, still not having a full Masters. It’s going to have an impact on this community.”
The tournament has always been able to fill up area hotel rooms and rental homes, with visitors paying increased room rates, a 6% lodging tax, a $1-a-night local fee and a $5-a-night state fee. Richmond County collects an average of $1.4 million in hotel-motel tax revenues in April, which is about three times higher than the average month.
"Having limited patrons attend the April Masters bodes well for Augusta," Mayor Hardie Davis said in a statement. "After a successful November event, Augusta National has a roadmap by which to host a safe tournament for patrons and players. Augusta stands ready to welcome the world to our city in April."
Jane Fuhrmann, owner of Tournament Housing & Events, one of many area companies that book home rentals for Masters patrons, is glad the tournament is taking place with at least some patrons.
“Maybe the roars won’t be as loud as in the past, but some roars are better than no roars,” she said. “I knew it could not be full capacity. None of the other sporting events are having full capacity spectators. The virus shot is not out to everyone yet, so there was no way they could have full capacity.”
Fuhrmann felt the announcement came at the right time to make sure people could make the necessary arrangements and homeowners will be able to know whether their rentals are going to come through.
Glen Bynum, the owner of Champion Home Rental, said not enough information has been released to determine the impact on home rentals for the tournament. He said he expected the tournament to be played with no patrons, limited patrons or be moved to the fall again, so he wasn’t that surprised when he heard about the announcement. He doesn’t expect to see an increase in rentals over the next couple of weeks, since people usually make arrangements well in advance.
“I think it makes perfect sense to do what they did and wait as long as possible before they made an announcement just to see what the status was with COVID and the vaccine and everything else,” he said.
In Aiken, Mike Fanning, who owns AllStar Tents and Events, said he doesn’t expect a lot of business, even with some patrons coming to the area.
"A lot of what we do is off-site corporate stuff, and that didn’t happen this year and I doubt it will happen next year,” he said. “I’m expecting little to no revenue from the events around Masters.”
Partridge Inn General Manager Lloyd Van Horn said the announcement is a step in the right direction. He said he is expecting more announcements from Augusta National in the coming weeks .
“We are preparing for a lot of different scenarios as we tend to do, especially after COVID-19. We had nothing solid yet, and the announcement doesn’t create any kind of solid atmosphere for what the future is because how many patrons is a key number,” he said. “I’m glad that we are doing the Masters, for sure. It’s an institution, it’s something that really defines Augusta.”
This year’s Masters is schedule for April 5-11. The Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals are both scheduled to return with limited patrons as well.