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story.lead_photo.caption Austin Comiskey (from left), Mike Vasquez and Drew Clark, all with Roark Group, set up a television stand Wednesday in the seating area overlooking the 18th green at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers. Events begin Monday for the LPGA Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. - Photo by Jason Ivester

ROGERS — Hosts of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship hope cheaper food prices, a kids play area and a new viewing deck will attract more casual fans and families.

Photo by Jason Ivester
Drew Clark (left) and Colten Scott, both with Roark Group, set up a television stand Wednesday in the seating area overlooking the 18th green at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers. Events begin Monday for the LPGA Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

“We want anybody who’s out here to have a great time,” said Annye DeGrand, account director for Octagon, which owns and manages the tournament.

The event runs Monday to Sunday and will bring 144 of the top golfers on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour to Pinnacle Country Club for the 11th consecutive year. The competitive tournament is Friday through June 25.

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The new deck sits on the west side of the No. 17 hole and is the largest structure the tournament has built at 100 feet by 62 feet, DeGrand said. Fans can recognize it by its name: Hub479.

She wants fans at the No. 17 hole to be loud as part of the tournament’s push to make it the Gatorade Loudest Hole on Tour.

“People think you have to be quiet at golf tournaments, and we’re trying to change that perception. There’s a lot of energy surrounding the hole,” DeGrand said.

The elevated platform is accessible by ramps that take fans to a large lounge area in the back of the deck with all new tables and seats. A more restaurant-style experience includes table service, said Harry Hardy, tournament director.

Ray Canode, a fan who will attend the tournament for the fifth time, said his experience has always been great, and he looks forward to the new features.

“It gives people all the more reason to come out and enjoy the event,” Canode said. “It’ll let people get closer to the game and the action, but also feel like they’re part of the VIP action too. I think that’s pretty cool because I don’t know of anything else like that at any other tournament.”

Adjacent to Hub479 will be an area for children called the Sam’s Club Kids Center that will have an indoor and outdoor section.

The indoor side will be air-conditioned and include activities such as video games, basketball pop-a-shot games, and arts and crafts. The center also will offer free snacks and drinks, DeGrand said. The outdoor side will have a nine-hole putt-putt course and other activities such as ladder golf toss games and a giant checkers board.

The viewing deck and kids center are free and open to ticket holders.

Prices for concessions will be reduced for meals, snacks and water. Meals will be $3, snacks will be $2 and water will be $1, a $2 decrease from past years for all three.

Other changes this year include a revamped concessions menu with items such as barbecue chicken flatbread pizzas, steakhouse burgers and meatball sliders. Another difference will be the concessions stands themselves. They will be called Tyson Cafes and offer covered seating and picnic tables surrounding each of the six locations, De-Grand said.

“Lowering the prices and making things a little more family friendly is going to make the fan experience even better,” said Kent Eikenberry, CEO of Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. “I’m excited to see all the changes they’re going to make.”

Eikenberry has been his group’s representative with the tournament for the past two years. The Food Bank, along with five other Northwest Arkansas nonprofit groups, will staff the Tyson Cafes as part of the tournament’s aim to provide donations and awareness for local organizations. The tournament pays each of the groups to work concessions for the week.

Tournament officials wanted to add more amenities geared toward bringing in a wider demographic of fans, including more millennials and people who aren’t huge golf fans, Hardy said.

“This year we stepped back and looked to see how we can get more people out here,” he said. “Part of that is to make it as affordable as possible for families and people to come out.

Tickets cost $10 per day or $25 for the week. Kids 17 and younger get in free with a ticketed adult.

Tournament events

These are other events being offered during the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Thursday-Friday

• Bite NW Arkansas food festival from 6 to 9 p.m. at the 8th Street Market in Bentonville. Tickets: $30 for individuals, $25 for couples daily.

Saturday

• 5K @ The LPGA begins registration at 6:30 a.m. for the 7:30 a.m. race. The race starts and finishes at the Walmart AMP. Early registration: $20; registration the week of, $25.

• Community Concert featuring Elle King at 8 p.m. at the Wal-Mart AMP. Tickets: $9 for lawn seats; $18 for reserved seating.

June 25

• Yoga on the Green begins at 8 a.m. and lasts 45 minutes at Hub479 on the No. 17 hole at Pinnacle Country Club.

Source: Staff report

Alexander Nicoll may be reached by email at anicoll@nwadg.com .

Print Headline: Changes await LPGA fans

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