‘We’re going to be inundated’: Lt. Gov. helps make ‘big’ sporting event for Southern Utah official

IVINS — Under a tent near the first tee of the Black Desert Resort golf course Tuesday morning in Ivins, there were pastries from Farmstead Bakery, more than 100 assembled media, dignitaries and VIPs and an event that was big enough to bring out the lieutenant governor of Utah.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson speaks during the press conference announcing that Black Desert Resort will be hosting an LPGA Tour event starting in 2025, Ivins, Utah, May 30, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The announcement made it official: The top tier of women’s professional golf — the LPGA tour — is coming to Ivins.

It won’t be next year, as resort officials say they wanted the rest of the under-construction resort to be in place, which likely won’t be until the latter half of 2024.

But the LPGA Tour, tens of thousands of visitors and tens of millions of dollars added to the local economy will be coming for what is called the LPGA Black Desert Championship May 1-4, 2025, and for at least five consecutive years after that.

“We’re doing a five-year contract but we expect to do this for decades,” said Patrick Manning, managing partner of Black Desert Resort developer Enlaw LLC, clad in a suit and tie instead of his trademark T-shirt and cap. “The LPGA told me to.”

With Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office as the sponsor, the event will be televised worldwide on the Golf Channel. The LPGA also says it expects more than $21 million to be pumped in on a yearly basis to Southern Utah and as many as 50,000 attending the event itself. 

“Washington County better get ready for a lot of tourists. I think we’re going to be inundated and we’re really excited about it,” Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson told St. George News. “Bringing the LPGA tour here for at least several years, that’s going to bring attention to this area. Bring a lot of people here who never would’ve ever thought about coming here.”

View from behind the 11th tee of the Black Desert Resort golf course, Ivins, Utah, May 30, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Henderson also took aim at those who look at golf courses as water wasters at a time when the state government is implying its citizens to save water. Saying she believes it’s possible for there to be recreation and water conservation, she noted efforts made by the resort’s developers at sustainability including buying its own water supply that is being recycled as graywater and winning the largest-ever federal-state award for energy efficiency.  

“We can do things in a way that’s smart or we can do things in a way that’s stupid. I think that this golf course is a great example of how to do things in a smart and sustainable way,” Henderson said. “You look at the big grand scheme of things. A golf course doesn’t take up all that much water. It’s agriculture that takes up the vast majority of water. We want to have our green spaces. Having grass and greenery and open space like this is really good and healthy for the environment.”

The idea of inundation of tourists and a weekend where the area is televised to the world may seem far from a dream to those who might worry about more attention and growth to Southern Utah.

But Washington County Commissioner Gil Almquist told St. George News every end of the county will benefit from the event.

“Everyone has hotel rooms. Everyone’s going to truly have all boats ride in this tide. And we want that felt across the county because indeed we don’t pick winners and losers and the cities and the incorporated areas, obviously we want them to benefit as well,” Almquist said. “It has all kinds of ramifications. So even though we have RAP tax and we have tourism tax paid by tourists, we can all glean from the fact that we want to invest in having good events here.”

During Tuesday’s proceedings, it was tough not to see the smile on the face of Ivins Mayor Chris Hart. Ivins officials have had concerns of late concerning the need for more revenue coming into the city to support its police, fire and other services. But walking by at the press conference, he muttered the words “lucky pretty great announcement.”

Crowd at the press conference announcing that Black Desert Resort will be hosting an LPGA Tour event starting in 2025, Ivins, Utah, May 30, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“It’s an astonishing thing to contemplate. The economic impact of the city is going to be substantial, but that isn’t even the most important part of it to me,” Hart said. “It’s the way that Patrick and his group came into our city, looked at all of this remarkable beauty and so thoughtfully figure out how they could fit in fairways and greens and yet allows so much of this beautiful lava to remain for us to enjoy forever.”

Of the 300 acres the resort takes up, 240 are left untouched. There’s also a rule for golfers to protect the lava rock — a two-stroke penalty that makes it worse than a sand trap.

But Hart said Ivins residents won’t be unlucky as far as dealing with any extra traffic. A system of shuttles to Tuachan and other large parking lots around Southern Utah, as well as an underground parking lot at the resort itself, will keep local traffic to a minimum, officials said, and Hart noted the position of the resort at the far eastern tip of the city will help as well. 

“We’re either fortunate or we planned very well because to get to Black Desert or to Tuachan or to Snow Canyon, you only drive into our city. You don’t drive through it,” Hart said. “So the neighborhoods really aren’t going to be affected very much. We can continue to live the way we always have, wake up in our quiet little serene community and enjoy the remarkable views. The only difference is we’re going to have tens of thousands of visitors.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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