‘We’re going to be ready,’ U.S. Open organizer tells University Place crowd

The lead organizer for the 2015 U.S. Open mixed doses of reality with calm assurance addressing congestion the golf championship will bring to residents who live near Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.

“How many of you live within five miles of the golf course?” Danny Sink asked a crowd of 200 people Thursday night. A majority of hands shot up.

“I can’t promise you everything’s going to be fantastic,” said Sink, on-site championship director for the United States Golf Association.

But he said residents won’t be trapped in their homes.

“You’re going to get your mail,” Sink said. “You’re going to be able to get out. It may take you 10 minutes to get home as opposed to five minutes.

“Just trust us,” Sink said. “Keep in mind: it’s one week. It’s not forever.”

Sink spoke to a packed house at Pierce County’s Environmental Services Building next to the golf course in University Place.

He was part of a briefing on the U.S. Open at a County Council meeting in the council district that includes University Place.

The tournament will take place June 15 to 21, which will include three practice days before the four-day competition. The USGA is planning on a total attendance of 235,000, including spectators, volunteers, media, vendors and staff members.

Sink’s bottom line on Thursday: “We’re going to be ready.”

He said the transportation plan for the tournament won’t be out until early 2015. Talks are ongoing with groups to “get a mass of people here effectively and safely.” The tournament will use satellite parking and shuttles to move people to and from the county-owned golf course.

He said public transportation options are limited in the area compared to larger metro areas.

“That is our No. 1 priority to provide a public transportation option,” he said.

General parking – “thousands of spots, not hundreds” – needs to be relatively close to the golf course and Interstate 5. Daily ticket sales will be set at 35,000, he said.

Signups for 4,500 tournament volunteers will start in January. Volunteers will pay $170 and receive two golf shirts, a wind shirt and hat as well as access to the tournament.

The event requires 9,000 hotel rooms in the region. Using cruise ships in Puget Sound for lodging is a “long shot,” Sink said.

“Logistically, financially there’s a lot of speed bumps to that,” he said.

Sink cited the overall economic benefits the tournament will bring. The 2012 tournament in San Francisco had an economic impact of $144 million in direct and indirect spending.

There will be headaches and traffic, but the Open will expose University Place and Pierce County to the world, Sink said.

“I can guarantee you to a person in this room, this will be worth it,” he said.

Before Sink, former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg talked about the development of the former gravel mine in University Place into a $20 million championship golf course under his leadership. The target all along was to secure a U.S. Open, he said.

“The goal is to get a U.S. Open about every 10 years,” Ladenburg said.

After the meeting, University Place resident Mary O’Leary Christensen said she plans to sign up to volunteer.

“I’m excited as can be,” she said. “I’m extremely supportive.”

O’Leary Christensen lives about a mile from the golf course and said she has some concerns about the tournament’s impact on local residents, including traffic, but she trusts the experience and track record of the USGA.

“I am relying on their people to be able to professionally organize this event,” she said. “That may be naive.”

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647