University Place kicks around slogans, marketing ideas tied to U.S. Open

University Place has known the marketing potential of Chambers Bay Golf Course since it was announced seven years ago as the site of the 2015 U.S. Open. City leaders even flirted briefly a few years ago with changing the city’s name to Chambers Bay.

Their latest idea is to promote the city through colorful signs, banners, window decals and flags affixed to lampposts. With proposed slogans such as “In full swing” and “Proud to be U.P.,” the city wants to create a welcoming environment for visitors flocking to the major golf championship.

“We know that there’s going to be at least 235,000 people coming to the tournament over the week and 100 million people viewing this on TV,” said Mariza Craig, the assistant city manager and community and economic development director.

But it won’t be easy to grab the attention of all those visitors next June. There are no hotels in the city, and the majority of those attending will be shuttled to the course on United States Golf Association buses.

“As we did some research, it really became apparent that the people that run the U.S. Open, they have it down to a science,” said Rusty George, principal of Tacoma-based marketing firm Rusty George Creative. “They are about trucking people in, trucking people out, and keeping them on the golf course.”

George’s firm was hired by University Place to create a marketing plan related to the U.S. Open.

After meeting with the council and UP leaders, the firm came up with the idea to create a “well-branded town” that is “colorful, it’s interesting, and it looks like people are taking pride in the area and it draws people into the town center,” he said.

The slogans conceived by the firm would adorn the signs and banners and would be followed by the phrases “Host city of the 2015 U.S. Open” and “Celebrating 20 years of momentum.”

George also proposed painting the slogans at the center of some of the city’s busiest intersections.

Some of the new marketing could stick around for years and help commemorate UP’s 20th anniversary as a city next year. It also could help put the city in the minds of people looking for a place to live or do business.

“It’s our opportunity to put our city on the map,” Craig said.

At a City Council meeting Monday, the majority of the council expressed excitement over George’s proposals and offered other ideas.

Councilman Kent Keel wants scenic sites around the city to get camera time during during the network broadcast. He proposed using a large wraparound slogan on the civic building windows.

Councilman Javier Figueroa proposed putting it on the the building’s roof to provide a good aerial shot.

Councilwoman Caroline Belleci, who attended this year’s U.S. Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina, said that community didn’t do enough to promote its status as the host city. She wants UP to do more.

A bit of skepticism was raised by Councilman Chris Nye. He said marketing the city could be worthwhile if done right, but before he will support spending taxpayer money on it, he said he wants questions answered.

“Who are we doing this for, and why are we doing this?” Nye said in an interview Tuesday. “Just to say we are the host city, we are University Place and we’re ‘In full swing’ — I wrote in my notes last night ‘Who cares?’ People from Buffalo, people from Texas, people from China are coming here, and they don’t care.”

The council hasn’t discussed how much it will spend on the campaign. A $50,000 amount was discussed earlier this year, but it won’t be settled until this fall when the city begins talks for its 2015 budget. It will spend around $15,000 for Rusty George’s services so far.

Pierce County owns Chambers Bay Golf Course and has no plans to adopt new slogans or advertise like UP leaders have discussed. But county spokesman Hunter George said the county supports the efforts of UP and other South Sound cities looking to promote the event.

“It sends a great message to the USGA that this community is excited for them,” he said. “As the host city, they are positioned better than anybody.”