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Record Solheim Cup crowd the target as Gleneagles preparations underway

The Ryder Cup of 2014 was a triumph for Gleneagles and Perth and Kinross as a whole. It is hoped the 2019 Solheim Cup can mirror that success.
The Ryder Cup of 2014 was a triumph for Gleneagles and Perth and Kinross as a whole. It is hoped the 2019 Solheim Cup can mirror that success.

September’s Solheim Cup at Gleneagles will have the same scope and feel as the Ryder Cup at the same venue five years ago, with much of the infrastructure being repeated.

VisitScotland contractors started working on the site two weeks ago and with seven weeks to go before Catriona Matthew’s Team Europe take on the USA on the PGA Centenary Course the advanced plans to make a “family-friendly” event can be made public.

Some 63,000 tickets had been sold for the event as of three weeks ago, with a final push of ticket sales planned in the last month to reach a record number for the Solheim in Europe, with Germany’s figure of just short of 80,000 two years ago in clear sight.

The Ryder Cup in 2014 had a total crowd of over 240,000 over the week, but the plans that proved hugely successful then are being largely repeated with the first tee and 18th green stand complexes being roughly the same size, and the spectator village almost identical.

“People won’t expect to see the infrastructure they saw in 2014,” said Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s director of events. “The first tee, the wraparound stands, dinner and concert, and we’ve tendered it exactly the way we did at the Ryder Cup.

“Obviously it’s a much smaller number of people through the gate but it is equally as important as a next step for us. Our target after 2014 was always the Solheim Cup next.

“We wanted to send it back to the LPGA and LET as a much stronger brand, and we think we did that in 2014. There’ll be less grandstands on course, but in terms of the approach of our team, it’s exactly the same.”

The Solheim first tee complex will seat 2200 – compared to the 2400 in 2014 – but 95 per cent of the seats will be unreserved. Similarly, the opening ceremony, held in the spectator village on the practice ground off Station Road, will have dignitaries seated at the back with the area in front of the stage left open for ordinary fans.

“The spectator experience will be much better for everything because of fewer numbers,” added Bush. “The numbers we have so far, for a women’s golf event and for women’s sport in Scotland, are pretty impressive.

“Women’s sport is on the up with the football World Cup, the netball World Cup and we think that come September there will be a real focus.

“In terms of sponsorship this has been as good as we’ve ever had in a Scottish context.”

The main hospitality Ping Pavilion has been sold out for over a year, the opening ceremony is close to being sold out and the parking onsite – only available if tickets are bought in advance – is 65 per cent sold.

Park and ride will operate from Stirling and from McDiarmid Park in Perth, with walk-up tickets available there.

“We have a big use of railways again, with Scotrail having every service north and south stopping at Gleneagles that week,” added Bush.

Children go free and the focus is on making the environment as family friendly as possible.

“The entire purpose of the village is around family activities, with a soft play area, a golf activity zone as well as food and drink,” he added. “We’re already 300 per cent over target for the number of Under-16s registered.

“One of the biggest targets was to market this for an audience new to golf and we’ve aimed for a village fete type of affair rather than a golf-focused spectator village.”

Texas will head up the opening ceremony but there will be music performances throughout the day as the wish is to get away from the “stuffiness” of other events of this sort.

“We’re in great shape with six weeks  to go, we’d like to get more excitement around the event but we think that’s going to start soon,” continued Bush.

“That last month push will be critical to us; an 85,000 to 90,000 crowd would be a fantastic number.

“I think Catriona’s team is shaping up well and they have a real chance of winning back the Cup.”

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