Outside help will be sought for US Open at Chambers Bay

Local cities and public agencies will be asked to help cover the costs of providing security and other services when the Chambers Bay Golf Course hosts the U.S. Open in two years.

The expectation of the United States Golf Association, the tournament’s organizer, is that local communities step forward to provide resources “to help cover the tremendous cost it will take to put this on,” Deputy County Executive Kevin Phelps told the Lakewood City Council during a presentation last week.

Pierce County developed and operates the Scottish links-style course in University Place, is leasing it to the USGA for the major tournament in June 2015 and is supporting the USGA’s planning efforts.

Phelps told the Lakewood council that providing public safety is “one of the keys” to secure another invitation to host the U.S. Open in the future.

An estimated 235,000 will attend the event, and television coverage will introduce Chambers Bay, University Place and the surrounding area to a worldwide audience. Phelps said a total economic impact of $140 million to $150 million is “easily attainable.”

“At the end of the day, if we turn a bill over to the USGA for a half-million dollars for security, I can probably pretty well guarantee you that we are one and out,” he told Lakewood leaders.

Phelps later told The News Tribune the costs haven’t been calculated yet, and he used that half-million dollar figure hypothetically.

County spokesman Hunter George emphasized that the planning process is in the early stages. He called Phelps’ presentation “an advance warning” of the conversation that tournament organizers will have with many audiences.

Championship director Danny Sink, who has set up six prior U.S. Opens, declined Friday to discuss the costs for those previous tournaments, citing contractual restrictions.

“It’s different everywhere we go,” Sink said. “There’s no blueprint.”

The USGA employs a security director and will work in partnership with law enforcement agencies from the federal, state and local agencies, he said. Sink said he could “definitely see” involvement from communities beyond Pierce County and University Place, which contracts with the county for law enforcement services.

An analysis by the San Diego Union-Tribune found that the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course cost $914,385 in police and fire overtime. However, more people attended that tournament than are expected to show up at Chambers Bay; nearly 300,000 people attended the 2008 Open, which was extended one day for a playoff, according to an economic impact analysis.

The USGA and Pierce County will lead a public safety committee, which is months away from being convened, to develop a plan to provide on-course security, traffic control and fire and emergency medical response. The committee will include representatives from participating agencies.

Phelps told The News Tribune that local cities and public agencies would be contacted during the first half of next year about assisting with those needs. He told the Lakewood council those requests would reach into Thurston and King counties.

Both University Place and Pierce County are sending people to this year’s U.S. Open near Philadelphia to understand the impacts and how the tournament is organized.

“At this point, we don’t know any numbers (for security and other costs) because the event planning is still in process,” University Place City Attorney Steve Victor said.

At Monday’s meeting, a couple of Lakewood City Council members raised concerns about incurring costs in support of a tournament that the community will reap little benefit from.

Mayor Don Anderson noted that University Place, as the host community, will receive a much larger share of revenue through admissions and sales taxes than Lakewood.

“It’s very tough to justify contributing our police force to the (expense of) taxpayers of Lakewood when (police are) already such a large portion of our city budget,” he said.

Phelps said Lakewood is estimated to receive $28,000 in lodging tax and sales tax revenue directly from the U.S. Open, and that figure is likely to increase with the anticipated opening of two new hotels on Pacific Highway later this year.

He said the exposure also would provide the city economic benefits in the years after the professional golfers and spectators leave.

“I would like to think that the U.S. Open will put our community and the South Sound region on a map unlike anything else we’ve ever done,” Phelps said.