Simply put, the Bird’s Nest was not a good fit for West-World, said Scottsdale and FBR Open officials on Friday.
Tournament chairman Bryon Carney, of the sponsoring Phoenix Thunderbirds, told the Tribune on Thursday that "the Nest" was being moved back to the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale after three years at WestWorld.
In 2001, the party venue that is open each night of the professional golf tournament was shifted east across Loop 101 to 5 acres at WestWorld. The PGA Tour pressured the Thunderbirds to separate the party from the tournament after several incidents drew negative publicity.
"(The Nest) grew to be what I believe, and many people believe, is too big," Carney said Friday.
While the party attracted 32,000 people to WestWorld in January, few of them attended the tournament. Carney said many sponsors approached him to lament the loss of what the Nest had been while at the TPC.
"The difference is it used to be more of a mingling situation where you could go dance, you could sit and just have a drink with a friend and have a conversation," said Mike Piazza, the Nest’s chairman. "We had a mosh pit break out last year, we’ve never had that happen before."
Next year, the party will be held on about half the space it had at WestWorld and is designed for just a fraction of the crowd organizers planned for in recent years, Carney said. The tent will hold only about 4,000 people. West-World accommodated as many as 11,000.
"We’re not trying to create a separate venue that we sell tickets (for), that people come up to go to the Bird’s Nest," Carney said. Though the new venue is at the TPC, on the northwest corner of Bell Road and 82nd Street, it will be nearly a mile from the course and in a 15-foot-deep depression.
WestWorld general manager Brad Gessner said he did not fight to keep the event as the Thunderbirds discussed with Scottsdale officials moving the Nest back to the golf course.
"Frankly, it was always difficult to even host them here because it was so close to the Barrett-Jackson (Classic Auto Auction), the (auction) folks had to really hurry to get it cleaned out and to get some of the other tents removed," Gessner said.
The auction, which attracts thousands of high-end car enthusiasts, is held the fourth weekend in January, right before the FBR Open begins. Gessner said the rush to clear all the infrastructure in place for the auction caused a strain.
In January, there was not enough time to finish, so the party was held around what remained of the auto auction.
WestWorld, which is owned by Scottsdale, won’t lose much revenue with the departure of the Nest, Gessner said. Rent at the equestrian center was greatly reduced for the Thunderbirds, which also retained all revenue from concessions.
Should the Thunderbirds change their mind, they would be invited back, Gessner said. "They could let us know tomorrow that they want to come back and we could accommodate them," he said.
The tournament, which runs Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, has often been compared with a fraternity party because of the occasionally raucous behavior of fans on the course. The Nest came to personify that.
Despite the smaller setting, no one should expect the FBR Open crowd to become tamer.
"We’re never going to get away from that," Piazza said. "It’s a big party."