U.S. Open fan extravaganza appears headed to Seattle, not South Sound

Preliminary signs are pointing to Seattle, not the South Sound, as the site of a five-day, U.S. Open-themed fan festival during this summer’s golf championship, although USGA and local officials have not yet confirmed where the event will be.

It’s called the U.S. “Open For All” Experience, and it will offer those unable to attend the tournament at Chambers Bay golf course the opportunity to be part of the excitement for free. Last year, it drew hundreds of people to the Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina, about a mile from where the world’s best golfers were playing.

A spokeswoman for Seattle’s office of economic development said this week that the USGA had spoken with a special events planner about hosting an event in Seattle. She didn’t indicate where in the city it could be.

Pierce County, University Place and Tacoma officials had hoped the event would be held locally.

“The indication is it’s unlikely to happen here,” University Place City Manager Steve Sugg said.

During the 2014 U.S. Open, Pinehurst hosted the event that borrows elements from the annual NFL Experience at the Super Bowl. It included a putting green, food, wine and beer, concerts and other live entertainment, and large screens showing live coverage of the golf play.

Event organizers have said to expect something similar this year, including food trucks and family-friendly activities.

But they aren’t ready to say where in the Puget Sound area the event will be.

“Because we have not formally booked any sites yet, it’s premature to discuss locations,” said Janeen Driscoll, USGA public relations director.

However, the News Tribune obtained a draft document listing official festivities leading up to and during the Open, which says “the USGA will bring the action to downtown Seattle for an interactive and immersive fan experience.”

There were never any guarantees the U.S. Open Experience would be in Pierce County. Many visitors who come to the region for the tournament will fly in and out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and stay in hotels in King County.

But that didn’t stop South Sound leaders from hoping.

While visiting last year’s Open in North Carolina, UP Mayor Denise McCluskey said the city had enough space along Bridgeport Way West on the property formerly known as Town Center, now called The Village at Chambers Bay.

As the host city of the Open, UP seemed a logical fit, and McCluskey said she would be disappointed if the Experience were somewhere else.

“We think 2015 is really the year of University Place,” she said at the time.

Some on the City Council suggested having a fan event regardless of where the USGA has its festival, but a lack of money and other resources derailed those plans. Instead, the city will build an Open theme into the annual Duck Days celebration in early June, said Mariza Craig, assistant city manager for community and economic development.

Pierce County spokesman Hunter George said last summer that county leaders thought they could “make the business case” to hold the event locally. This week he was less willing to discuss the location.

“The county isn’t going to comment until the USGA makes its announcement,” George said.

The U.S. Open Experience was created in 2013 after all 25,000 tickets sold out for the tournament at Merion Golf Club East Course in Pennsylvania several weeks before the championship.

That inaugural Experience was at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Like Seattle, Philadelphia was at least a half-hour drive from the course where the tournament was played.

No event permits have been filed in Seattle for the event, but economic development spokeswoman Karin Zaugg said the city has been actively talking with golf officials. The permit process takes two months, so the application must be filed soon if the USGA wants to have the event June 17-21 as planned.

Driscoll said the USGA will announce its “outside the ropes” special events and locations by mid-April. That includes information about a merchandise day at Chambers Bay where people will be granted free admission and parking and can purchase U.S. Open items before the tournament tees off.