The Bird’s Nest — the FBR Open’s rollicking party tent — is winging its way home to the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale after spending the past three years at WestWorld.
Tournament chairman Bryon Carney of the sponsoring Phoenix Thunderbirds confirmed the move Thursday.
"In the traditional spirit of our tournament, we want people to get excited about the Bird’s Nest again, to make it more of a party associated with the tournament rather than a rock concert, which is what it had become at WestWorld," Carney said. "It’s going to be much smaller, like when it was next to the 18th hole at the TPC."
The new Bird’s Nest will be on the northwest corner of Bell Road and 82nd Street when the tournament tees off Jan. 31 to Feb. 6. The location is about a city block from the entrance to the TPC, whereas WestWorld was about 1 1 /2 miles from the course.
Carney said "the Nest," as it is commonly referred to by tournament regulars, will be about half the size of the venue at WestWorld, where it was held in a massive structure that used to be an airport hangar during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The new tent "will be a little less than 10,000 square feet," Carney said. "It will hold about 3,000 to 5,000 people when the patio area is factored in."
According to Duke Butler, vice president of business operations for the PGA Tour, his organization supports the move.
"My understanding is, that while it’s closer, it’s not so close that it will be evident at the golf course," Butler said. "It shouldn’t have any impact on the golf tournament.
"The host organization and title sponsor always have the right to organize activities away from the golf course — dinners, special events or whatever — and (the Bird’s Nest) is part of that."
The PGA Tour was chiefly responsible for putting pressure on the Thunderbirds to move the Bird’s Nest off site in 2001, following several incidents that drew negative publicity. One of those involved a gun-toting fan who was arrested while following Tiger Woods during the final round of the tournament.
But the move to West-World was costly. With the bigger venue, organizers were compelled to bring in more expensive bands such as Huey Lewis and the News and Dennis Quaid and the Sharks. Increased costs for more security, manpower and rental fees also made it difficult to generate profits. The Bird’s Nest lost money its first two years at WestWorld.
"It finally made a little money last year, but still didn’t justify the costs," Carney said. "But it was more than just a financial decision to move it."
Carney conceded that the Bird’s Nest at WestWorld had become more about the "beautiful people" rather than the tournament patrons.
"I don’t want to lose the ASU students, the Scottsdale scene," he said. "What we really want to do is bring back all those fans who have supported the tournament through the years and at one time also came to the Bird’s Nest before it got too big."
The idea for the Bird’s Nest was hatched in 1972, when it was a small party held near the swimming pool area at the Phoenix Country Club, and later on the club’s tennis court.
It became much bigger when the tournament moved to the TPC in 1987, as it was originally located on what now is the Fry’s Food Court, between the ninth green and 10th tee. As a historical note, Otis Day and the Knights of "Animal House" fame were the first act to play at the TPC’s version.
Carney said the Thunderbirds decided to move it back to the TPC earlier this year, and informed the PGA Tour in October when a group of Thunderbirds attended the TOUR Championship in Atlanta.
"(The Tour) said as long as we didn’t bring it back on course — or near the 18th hole — they were fine with it," he said.
Butler commended the Thunderbirds while explaining the Tour’s position.
"Going back 10 years, the personality of the Bird’s Nest at that location adjacent to the 18th hole encroached on our motive to put on a worldclass golf tournament," Butler explained. "It got a little off the primary objective.
"But the Thunderbirds are one of the best at promoting a great event and raising money for their charities. And to that end, I’m sure (the Bird’s Nest) plays a part in all of that."
Bird’s Nest chairman Mika Piazza said the new Nest will be smaller and as a result, "more intimate."
"We realized we’re not concert promoters, and we can’t afford national acts," he said. "But we’re working with a lot of great local bands like the Chadwicks and Zowie Bowie, and our tournament staple, Duck Soup, will lead off every night."
Piazza said the Bird’s Nest will cost $10 in advance, or $15 at the gate, versus a $25 ticket when it was held at WestWorld.