Deb Wallace, Pierce County’s airport administrator, knew the month of June at the Tacoma Narrows Airport was going to be a busy time.
With the U.S. Open just weeks away, the thought was that professional golfers would fly into the airport and then drive to Chambers Bay to play the course. That has proved true — especially this past week, when two big stars passed through.
Wallace made her first call about what to expect during the tournament four years ago. In the last year, the county has stepped up preparations for the tournament, which lands in its backyard in two weeks.
The Tacoma Narrows Airport is the closest airport to the Chambers Bay golf course, which means stars will want to fly in through Gig Harbor. It’s the closest place to spot stars other than the course.
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“If you don’t have tickets to the U.S. Open, this is the next best spot to be,” the Hub at Gig Harbor restaurant owner Pat Nagle said.
Over the past week, two of golf’s biggest stars have flown into the Gig Harbor airport. Phil Mickelson stopped by Gig Harbor for a trip to play the front nine on Thursday; Tiger Woods landed Monday, sparking social media interest.
The number of planes, players and sponsors will grow as the championship draws near. Planes will fill the air space and the parking areas on the flight line.
“We expect to have a full house,” Wallace said.
Pilots who fly out of Tacoma Narrows and other regional airports in the area should be prepared to be patient as tower traffic and air space will be busier than normal.
Business should be booming for the airports two fixed-base operators. Pavco Aviation and Tacoma Narrows Aviation are the two FBOs on the airport property and will be supplying fuel and concierge services to private jets.
June is a big month for the airport not just because of the Open, but also because the new observation area will open.
On Wednesday, the Rotary Aviation Zone will open at the airport. The zone is an ADA-accessible tower that has a prime view of the runway, as well as a shelter and picnic tables.
The tower was built as a partnership of the Rotary Club of Gig Harbor, Pierce County and the Friends of the Tacoma Narrows Airport.
Nagle is hoping the planes bring in guests to his restaurant. He’s also been busy catering for the jets. The excitement in the air is palpable.
“I love sporting events,” Nagle said. “I love that a major is coming to town.”
With the U.S. Open teeing off on June 18, there’s more excitement to come at the airport.