Preparations underway in Sumner, Puyallup to welcome U.S. Open

When Denise Dyer, the economic development director for Pierce County, talks about the economic impact the U.S. Open in 2015 at Chambers Bay will bring to the region, you can’t blame her for being overly giddy.

“We have been planning since 2008 when the announcement was made,” Dyer said. “It certainly is ramping up now. The media is already writing stories. We’re already seeing the economic impact this year.”

Rumor has it, Dyer said, that Tacoma-Pierce County hotels are already booking up for the June 2015 event. When an estimated 200,000 visitors come to the region the week of June 15-17 2015, the economic impact is estimated to be $144 million, according to a United States Golf Association report. The region encompasses Pierce, King, Kitsap and Thurston counties.

“The peak of attendance will be on Friday with about 50,000 people as spectators,” Dyer said.

Average spending revenue per visitor per day, according to 2008 and 2011 USGA reports, is $1,256.

A USGA survey of those attending the 2008 U.S. Open estimated that on average, 64 percent came from out of town and 90 percent stayed in hotels. Estimated room nights according to 2012 numbers was 87,000.

For the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, the USGA is estimating 235,000 gate tickets will be sold. But in addition to gate tickets, there will also be 2,000 credentialled media, 300 USGA staff and about 1,000 vendors. Members of the media, vendors and USGA, Dyer said, will all show up in advance of the opening day of the U.S. Open.

With more than 200,000 estimated to be in the region, Dyer said there is not enough hotel rooms in the Tacoma area to meet the demand. Naturally, she said, people will be staying in outlying communities in Pierce County, but also King, Thurston and Kitsap.

“Various communities are promoting local hospitality,” Dyer said.

One community that is taking the U.S. Open very seriously is Sumner.

In February, the Sumner City Council allocated $30,000 in the 2014 budget from lodging tax dollars to help support the Open in Sumner campaign. The campaign already has its own logo and at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (June 12) in city hall, the city’s design commission will meet with building and business owners of the historic downtown to discuss creative ideas for facade improvements.

“There will be a lot of cameras and a lot of media here, so we want to make sure we look our best,” said Carmen Palmer, communications director for Sumner. “The U.S. Open is a very unique opportunity. People will stay here because of our proximity to Chambers Bay. The city’s mission is to give visitors a welcome stay.”

Palmer said part of the $30,000 allocation will be distributed to building owners in the form of mini-grants to help spruce up storefronts between Traffic and Wood avenues along Main Street in historic downtown Sumner.

“Because it’s promotion money, it’s about destination readiness,” Palmer explained.

Mini-grants in other words can’t be used toward improvements to buildings that are structural or unseen. Suggested uses are for things such as pressure washing awnings, painting and other simple facade improvements.

“I’ve noticed already some of the downtown business owners doing some changes,” Palmer said. “Everybody is on the same page in getting ready.”

Palmer said the mini-grants are secondary to the effort.

“The biggest benefit will be working together and discovering partnerships and solutions,” she said.

Laurie Miller, the executive director of the Sumner Downtown Association, said there is no doubt people will come to Sumner during the U.S. Open.

“People like to stay where they’re comfortable,” Miller said. “Transportation is the big link to that event that will make Sumner a feasible place to stay.”

Meanwhile, Shelly Schlumpf, president and CEO of the Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce, said she is moving fast to prepare Puyallup and Sumner for the U.S. Open.

Schlumpf said the chamber is assembling tour brochures for those visiting, to help them to visit different points of interest in the area. The chamber is also focused on signing on new local restaurants as members in order to help promote them to visitors. And finally, work is being done to the chamber’s website to cater to visitors and professional business relocation to the area.

During the 2014 Washington State Fair in Puyallup, the Fair Museum inside the Blue Gate will showcase the history of the U.S. Open, golf in general and Chambers Bay.

“There will be an information tent on the U.S. Open outside the museum,” Dyer said.

But there are misconceptions out there about what the U.S. Open really means to the community.

“For example, no, the entire community doesn’t need to leave that week,” Dyer stressed. “Yes, you can shop and enjoy local restaurants.”

In other words, local people will still be able to go about their normal business. All the action will be at Chambers Bay.

if you go

The Sumner Design Commission will meet with building and business owners from the historic downtown starting at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Sumner City Hall Council Chambers. City staff encourages those attending to bring their ideas for facade improvements.

Andrew Fickes: 253-552-7001 andrew.fickes Twitter: @herald_andrew