The United States Golf Association will announce today that the nation's premier championship - the U.S. Open - will come to Pierce County's Chambers Bay Golf Course in 2015.
The association also will announce that Chambers Bay will host the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2010.
The tournaments are a tremendous coup for the county-owned golf course in University Place that opened last June. The U.S. Open alone is expected to draw 65,000 people a day and fill 10,000 hotel rooms throughout the region for nearly a week.
Based on the experience of previous U.S. Open tournaments, Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg expects a total economic impact from the tournament to be at least $100 million.
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By comparison, the 2001 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Seattle was projected to have a $60 million impact.
"It's like hosting the Super Bowl for four days in a row, " Ladenburg said Thursday.
The USGA's executive committee approved the tournaments Thursday at its annual meeting in Houston.
"We are excited to take the U.S. Open Championship and the U.S. Amateur to such an awesome site, " Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGA Championship Committee, said in announcing the decision. "This is the first time the U.S. Open has been to Washington, and we are confident that the golf course will provide a challenging test for the best players in the world, as well as a great spectator experience for those who attend the event and watch it online and on television."
The USGA is a private organization that operates 13 annual national championships. The U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur tournaments draw top professional and amateur talent - think Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Big names draw big money. With tens of thousands of people spending money on rooms, meals and rental cars, the tournaments should be a windfall for local businesses and governments.
This year's U.S. Open in San Diego is expected to have an economic impact of $80 million to $100 million. The state of Pennsylvania estimated the impact of last year's tournament in Pittsburgh at $59.7 million.
Ladenburg said the payoff here could be higher because Chambers Bay was designed to accommodate more visitors. The San Diego tournament is expected to draw 45,000 to 50,000 people a day - at least 15,000 fewer each day than Chambers Bay can hold.
Ladenburg expects today's announcement to spark the public's interest in playing the county-owned course as soon as next week. And he said the long-term benefits of international attention could be substantial.
"We're going to see some absolutely gorgeous pictures of Pierce County traveling across the world for a week, " he said.
Gov. Chris Gregoire welcomed the announcement in a statement released to The News Tribune.
"Chambers Bay Golf Course is a jewel for the entire state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest, " Gregoire said. "The U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur championships will be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the natural beauty of our state and share it with golf enthusiasts around the globe."
Gregoire singled out Ladenburg for "his hard work on delivering the championship events to Pierce County."
LADENBURG'S VISION PAYS OFF
Final details of a contract between the county and the USGA must be negotiated by June 1.
Pierce County will host and pay for the amateur tournament in 2010. But the county will get the ticket sales and other income, and Ladenburg said the county will "break even or a little better" on the amateur tournament.
The big prize comes in 2015.
The USGA will pay Pierce County to use Chambers Bay. Ladenburg expects the fee to be in the $2 million to $2.5 million range. The two agencies will split some costs and share revenue.
Several area agencies - including Sound Transit, Pierce Transit and King County Metro Transit - already are devising a plan to move tens of thousands of people in and out of Chambers Bay during the tournaments.
The county also must build a permanent clubhouse at Chambers Bay to accommodate the U.S. Open. A modular building serves as the clubhouse for now.
The county hopes a private developer will invest about $35 million to build the clubhouse, lodging, a practice facility and driving range and split the profits with the county. The county will seek proposals from developers later this month.
Between USGA payments and tax revenue, Ladenburg said the county will more than recover its costs for the tournaments.
"The bottom line is the taxpayers are going to benefit from this, " he said. "That's why everybody fights over hosting a U.S. Open."
Landing the tournament could vindicate Ladenburg's vision for Chambers Bay. Public funding of a championship-caliber course that charges up to $171 a round has been a source of ongoing controversy.
When he proposed the course several years ago, Ladenburg pitched it as a national showcase that would draw top tournaments to the Pacific Northwest.
Acclaimed course designer Robert Trent Jones II designed Chambers Bay to test the skills of the country's top golfers. The county has been working with the USGA for years to ensure it would meet the association's needs.
Ladenburg said that close relationship paid off.
"It's one of those overnight successes that took years, " he said.
'JUST HAD EVERYTHING GOING FOR IT'
Chambers Bay will be just the third municipal course to host the U.S. Open.
Bethpage Black in New York hosted the championship in 2002 and will host the 2009 event. Torrey Pines in San Diego will host this year's event.
Mike Davis, USGA's senior director of rules and competitions, said Chambers Bay didn't immediately get his attention.
"We often talk to people telling us they have this course ready for a U.S. Open, " Davis said Thursday. "And when I had someone say there was a site south of Seattle, and in Tacoma, I didn't pay much attention.
"But when I found out it was . . . on the water, publicly owned and had 1,000 square acres, I thought, 'Huh, this doesn't happen very often.' "
Davis said Chambers Bay "just had everything going for it. It didn't miss a beat. It was what we wanted, in terms of a championship course. We're very excited about this."
Built on a former gravel mine, the 18-hole course offers spectacular views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
The Scottish links-style course features sandy terrain and just one tree.
Since its opening last summer, the course has gained national acclaim. Golf Magazine named it "Best New Course of the Year." It was second on Golfweek's list of best new courses. And Travel & Leisure golf magazine named Chambers Bay 2007 Course of the Year.
Just last week Houston-based Heritage Links earned a Golf Course Industry magazine "2008 Builder Excellence Award" for its work in building Chambers Bay.