WILMINGTON — The Wells Fargo Championship has arrived in the Port City. With an estimated influx of 25,000 people expected in town, what can the businesses of downtown Wilmington expect out of the tournament?
According to Wilmington Downtown Inc, President Ed Wolverton, “We’ve seen a slight uptick in business at this point, but it’s still fairly small in terms of impact.”
WDI has arranged a series of events throughout the week coined, “Play A Round, Downtown.” The initiative includes a putting green, a scavenger hunt, a free golf-themed movie and concerts. All of it is designed to drive traffic into the downtown area.
There is also a fleet of 50 shuttles operating from downtown to Eagle Point Golf Club and back. Those are being provided to alleviate congestion on area roadways, as well as bring people into Wilmington.
“This is the first time the PGA Tour has been here, so we didn’t quite know what to expect. We kind of over prepared for it,” Wolverton said.
But what have the people working downtown noticed? So far, many say it’s business as usual.
According to Megan Wanliss, an employee at Down to Earth on Front Street, business had remained steady throughout the week, so far, “but it’s been a little bit busier today (Wednesday).”
Kelsey Kircher at the restaurant Beer Barrio said much of the same, noting most of her lunch crowd still seemed to be regulars, but “dinners have been really busy this week.”
However, as you head south on Front Street, some shops said they were seeing a decrease in business as the week has gone on. Places like the Museum of the Bizarre, and Camillions in Chandlers Wharf reported business being very slow Wednesday.
“A lot of people are browsing, just not buying much” said Meredith Snyder of Camillions. “I don’t know if it’s the nice weather or what.”
Margo Beberaggi, manager at the Black Cat Shoppe on Market Street, said she was hoping for a big week, but it just hasn’t happened, yet.
“Business has been less than average, and we were really hoping for a blowout,” Beberaggi said. “We really stocked up for the week, there’s been a lot of looking around, just not much buying.”
Bebraggi speculated that much of the lack of foot traffic she has seen can be attributed to the fact that tournament parking for the shuttles is on the north end of Wilmington. But, she said, she has high hopes for the weekend.
“We’re really hoping the ‘One Tree Hill’ convention brings some traffic our way,” Bebraggi said. “That’s a little bit more our crowd.”
According to Wolverton, officials are expecting an uptick in weekend business. Through Wednesday, all of the golf being played has been part of preliminary events. The actual tournament is set to begin Thursday.
“At this point it’s running very smooth, but it’s hasn’t quite been as busy as we thought it might be,” Wolverton said on Wednesday. “Now, we do expect that to change. Tomorrow the competition really starts.
“In addition to the competition,” he added, “we recognize the ‘One Tree Hill’ convention will be in town this weekend, and then UNCW graduation is also this weekend. We’ll capture some of those people coming down as well.”
Wolverton noted the convention is expected to bring and additional 1,000 people to the downtown area.
The Wells Fargo Championship runs through May 7, for more information visit its website.