With days left, more surprises
On Monday afternoon, with an event pairing pro and amateur golfers underway, Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice announced that he was putting up a $1 million jackpot if a player hits a hole-in-one during tournament competition.
Of that, $750,000 would go to charity, with the player pocketing the remainder. Also, each fan seated in the gallery around the 18th green would receive $100.
Should there be more than one hole-in-one, the fans' jackpot goes up to $500 if there are two, and $1,000 if there are three. (Not every gallery member gets in on the cash, just those holding special cards issued to those seated at 18.)
For Justice, the prize money is just another way of showing first-time visitors some West Virginia hospitality.
"Everybody says the same thing: 'My gosh, this is the most beautiful [place] in the world,'" he said, moments after watching star golfer John Daly crush a drive off of the first tee.
"They're just getting a little taste of West Virginia and what we're all about," he said.
Justice described the tournament's inaugural field as "terrific," and said it will get better and betters as players discuss their experiences playing the Old White Course and staying at the luxury resort.
Justice's jackpot isn't the only late development. On Monday, sound engineers and technicians were putting the final touches on the temporary concert stage that will host concerts by Reba McEntire on Wednesday, Rascal Flatts on Thursday, and Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley on Saturday.
Initially, organizers wanted to hold the concerts at the 18th green of the golf courses, said David Dodd, owner of Charleston-based Event Production LLC.
But Dodd changed his mind after he took a new truck off-roading in the hilly section of the West Virginia State Fair's parking area in Fairlea -- and got stuck.
Looking up at the contour of the land as he waited to be rescued, he imagined blasting a natural amphitheater into the hillside.
"We drew this up on the dash of my truck," Dodd said. "Pretty much everything fell into the footprint like we thought it would."
The bowl of the amphitheater is 900 feet wide and 750 feet deep, and rises 70 feet from the bottom. That space can accommodate up to 55,000 fans, he said.
The site will also boast two 18-foot-by-25-foot LED screens for the lower bowl on either side of the stage, with 22-foot-by-27-foot screens suspended 30 feet in the air for the crowd in the upper bowl.
The temporary facility -- which can be recreated relatively easily for future events, Dodd said -- also has a VIP area that includes 1,500 seats in front of the stage and air-conditioned tents with food and drink service. There's even a helipad out back, in case of medical emergencies or a last-minute gubernatorial visit.
Students, employees, alumni and others associated with the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in nearby Lewisburg will usher the concert events at the brand new stage.
"It's a great opportunity" for the school, said Dr. Michael Adelman, the school's president. "We always want to be a good partner with the community, and a good partner with The Greenbrier. It's a nice fit."
Jeremy Hampton, a second-year student from South Bend, Ind., said he planned to volunteer for the Reba and Rascal Flatts concerts. As a country music fan, he's excited to see them live without tapping into his student loans to cover the price of admission, he said.
All told, the school will supply 600 volunteers, 200 for each show.
Security and traffic for the entire week are being handled by several agencies led by the West Virginia State Police, assisted by the Greenbrier County Sheriff's Department, the Lewisburg Police Department and the White Sulphur Springs Police Department, said State Police First Sgt. J.L. Cahill, who's heading the detail.
Lewisburg police are directing the lion's share of the traffic, since the public parking is assigned to the State Fair's lot in Fairlea, with a fleet of buses shuttling them through Lewisburg and to the resort.
Although the Greenbrier Classic is a new event, local law enforcement has lots of experience dealing with similar-sized crowds on busy days at the State Fair, Cahill said.
Also, planners have borrowed liberally from the PGA's Quail Hollow tournament in Charlotte, N.C., which buses in fans who park at a nearby amusement park, he said.
They've been planning the event for months, with the first meeting held last October, Cahill said.
"Any kind of crisis you [might] have, we've got a procedure in place," he said.
Reach Andrew Clevenger at acleven...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.