Chaska will be in a world spotlight next fall when it hosts the 2016 Ryder Cup, the prestigious men’s biennial golf championship, which is expected to draw 300,000 visitors to the city of 24,000.
The southwest metro suburb isn’t shying away from center stage.
It’s home to Hazeltine National Golf Club, which has hosted major golf championships several times since the 1970s. From Sept. 27 to Oct. 2, it’ll do itself one better, hosting an event matched in magnitude only by the World Cup or the Olympics.
“They are geared up and ready to go,” said Jeff Hintz, director of the Ryder Cup. “It’s going to be a proud moment for a lot of people in Minnesota, even more so for the folks who live in Chaska.”
Hazeltine was chosen in 2002 for the 2016 tourney, a 14-year span that has allowed a number of improvements to take place at the course in preparation for its time in the worldwide spotlight.
So many people will be flowing into Chaska next fall that the area school district has made an unprecedented decision to cancel classes the week of the tournament to avoid the hassles associated with huge crowds and traffic congestion.
“Cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul experience larger events more frequently, and the one-week tournament has a longer impact on schools than a day event such as a presidential visit,” said Brett Johnson, spokesman for Eastern Carver County Schools.
Yet city officials say they feel prepared, and don’t plan to stray far from past plans for the city’s golf championships.
The city will add more signs, and more than 15 safety and security agencies will help safeguard the event. A group of security officials already is meeting regularly to plan for the tournament.
Residents, too, are preparing. Some plan to earn some extra money during the tournament by renting their homes to out-of-towners and skipping town with the kids for a late summer vacation.
The area is also preparing for that less desirable side of such a large event.
Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight said he plans to establish a criminal court at Hazeltine to efficiently charge visitors for offenses like DWIs.
“My model is to have everything we need on site so we don’t have to wait,” he said.
Schools will be affected
Eastern Carver County Schools — which encompasses Chanhassen, Chaska, Victoria and Carver — is in a period of growth, expanding to accommodate new developments in the area. Its student population of more than 9,000 is comparable to those in districts like Minnetonka and Burnsville.
The district has never shut down before for a tournament, probably because all previous major events at Hazeltine have taken place during the summer.
There is a precedent for shutting down during the Ryder. Two high schools near 2012 tournament host Medinah, Ill., closed for the full week of the event. That district was also responsible for recruiting and coordinating more than 3,000 volunteers for parking and concessions.
The Eastern Carver County district could rake in a total of about $95,000 to lease Chaska High School for training of tournament volunteers and school parking lots for shuttle use, according to an estimated rental agreement between the district and the PGA. The PGA would be billed for actual usage, the district said. Additional rentals include gymnasiums, a lecture room, auditorium and equipment.
The 2016-17 school year will be the second in a row when the district has had a nontraditional start time. This past fall, it started earlier to open up more time next summer for construction. There’s a lot to get done in the summer 2016 window, including groundbreaking for the district’s new elementary school, Johnson said.
During past major golf events, Chaska has largely shut down, said City Administrator Matt Podhradsky. This time around, the city is looking to draw residents to a golf-watching party extravaganza in its newly renovated Fireman’s Park. Locals will be able to watch the games on Jumbotrons while eating snacks and listening to live music into the night.
“These events tend to be downtime for the businesses in the community,” Podhradsky said. “We are putting together a viewer party … to attract more people from town who aren’t going to the event.”
The school district hopes students, too, can be involved in the once-in-a-lifetime event.
“Anybody that’s in our schools knows how great [the students] are,” Johnson said. “We want to put kids in the spotlight.”
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