St. Johns County expects big return on investment with $2.8M grant for PGA Tour

The PGA Tour is here and it appears it’s here to stay.

 

St. Johns County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved granting the company a $2.8 million incentives package to build a new, consolidated corporate headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach and create more than 300 new jobs by 2030.

The Tour, which has been doing business in the county for more than 35 years, had requested incentives be considered for construction of an $81 million, 210,000-square-foot facility on property it already owns along Palm Valley Road.

To that end, the package includes expedited permitting and an economic development grant for up to 100 percent of fees paid to the county (impact fees and water/sewer connection fees) plus four years of ad valorem taxes (general county portion) on capital improvements and tangible personal property valued at $86 million.

The first annual grant payment would be anticipated during the 2022 fiscal year, with an estimated annual payout of $440,320. The total estimated value of the incentive is $2,758,310.

A new headquarters will allow the company to consolidate employees who are currently located in 17 different buildings into one building, anticipated to be occupied by March 2020.

In a statement, PGA Tour vice president for integrated communications Kirsten Sabia said the Tour was excited with the result of Tuesday’s meeting.

“We are pleased to receive the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners’ final approval on our major modification application to the Players Club PUD and the economic development grant agreement, which allows us to move forward on our due diligence efforts in consolidating the PGA TOUR’s headquarters right here in Ponte Vedra,” Sabia said.

It’s expected the PGA Tour will maintain its 804 employees and create 307 new jobs, by March 31, 2030, at an average wage of at least $79,442.

Melissa Glasgow, director of economic development for the county, said the county’s current average wage, for the sake of comparison, is below $40,000.

She estimated a $24 million more in countywide tax revenues over 20 years, adding the “real economic value” is “much higher.” She also said the incentives are performance-based, meaning the Tour will not receive funding if it doesn’t hit the agreed-upon parameters.

Glasgow said the deal should represent a “win-win” for both parties.

“We can’t be presumptuous and think they can’t move their headquarters elsewhere,” she told commissioners, adding the Tour has “evaluated other areas” and that the company could “easily move elsewhere.”

During public comment, former commissioner Mary Kohnke said she wasn’t buying it and called the agreement “blatant favoritism.”

Another speaker, Gerry Klingman, president of the Sawgrass Players Club Association, said the Tour is a “fantastic neighbor” that has always considered the concerns of nearby communities.

Resident Tom Reynolds said the agreement was “corporate welfare” and claimed the $2.8 million would be better spent improving public transportation or flooding abatement.

Commissioner Jay Morris took issue with that.

“We’re not spending or giving away anything with this project,” he said, adding the PGA Tour is “paying themselves back with their own money.”

Whoever’s paying for it, Morris said the county will be getting $7.50 back on every $1 spent.

Commissioner Jeb Smith said the agreement was an “exciting, memorable and monumental” event whose impact is “impossible to prognosticate.”

Commissioners also unanimously approved selling the county’s adjacent property, which includes the Ponte Vedra Courthouse Annex and a communications tower, to the PGA Tour. In exchange, the Tour will pay about $700,000 cash and take various measures worth about $950,000 (at its sole cost and expense) to ensure all public safety communications equipment is relocated without disruption and given a new home, in perpetuity, in a replacement tower nearby.

“It’s been a journey for us to get to this point, and we’re really pleased to get the country’s approval,” Sabia said. “We’re looking forward to continuing our relationship with St. Johns County.”

Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union contributed to this report.

 

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