Pierce County seeks an extra piece of U.S. Open sales-tax windfall

Golf fans are coming to University Place in June 2015 for the U.S. Open, and they are bringing their wallets.

Their spending should be a huge boost for local merchants and a corresponding sales-tax windfall for governments. Pierce County gets a piece of that revenue, but the county is asking the state for more, to fund the county-owned golf course where the tournament will be played.

The goal is to entice the U.S. Open back to Chambers Bay in the future.

"We want to come back," Larry Gilhuly of the U.S. Golf Association told state lawmakers Tuesday, "but it has to be retained as a championship site, which is very difficult to do."

Gilhuly ticked off the ways that sand, fescue grass and other features must be maintained.

Pierce County officials are asking the Legislature for 40 percent of the state sales-tax revenue collected in their county over and above what is normally collected for that period.

Organizers are expecting 235,000 spectators at next year's U.S. Open, Pierce County Deputy Executive Kevin Phelps said. County officials said they expect a roughly $150 million spending impact.

"There are essentially three Super Bowls coming to Washington State, to Pierce County," Tacoma Sen. Steve O'Ban said, referring to those ticket sales. "Imagine if we had the opportunity to have three Super Bowls here on a regular basis."

Pierce County officials said they expect the state to collect some $8 million extra around the time of the U.S. Open.

As long as revenue for that quarter of the year ends up coming in at $2 million above the recent three-year average, the county would receive its 40 percent cut.

The proposal has bipartisan backing, with a House version by Lakewood Democrat Tami Green and an identical Senate measure by Republican O'Ban. That could be its own political challenge, though. Green is challenging appointee O'Ban for his seat in November's election.