There are tents, and then there are the tents that have blossomed on the grounds of the Chambers Bay golf course over the past two months.
The crisp-white shelters erected at the behest of the United States Golf Association boast the kind of accoutrements a car camper could only dream of.
“We’re talking about flooring. We’re talking about electrical. We’re talking about heating and air-conditioning,” said Danny Sink, USGA on-site championship director.
It has taken an army of carpenters, electricians, engineers and others to erect the more than 100 tents already standing, including the huge merchandise pavilion near the Central Meadow that will hold more than 500,000 items for sale by the time the U.S. Open golf championship tees off next month.
The work has been methodical, Sink said. That includes the use of global positioning satellites to make sure everything is placed correctly.
“Every corner of every point of every tent is GPS’d,” Sink said. “We know exactly what the elevations are. We know what’s underneath the tents and so on and so forth.”
Scaffolding crews laid down foundations. Carpenters added flooring. Crews from the company providing the tents erected the canvas, enough of it to cover the playing surface of CenturyLink Field in Seattle seven times over.
“What we’re really doing here is building a city, and we’re building a city for 235,000 people for the week,” he said. “It’s a process. It’s such a big event that we have a dedicated Home Depot rep that’s on site every day.”
The process began March 16 and will continue steadily until June 11, when USGA officials will open the merchandise pavilion to the masses ahead of the official start of championship week June 15.
Crews will build scores of additional smaller tents for admissions and concessions between now and then. They also will continue the task of finishing work inside, including adding moldings, carpets and other amenities, said Eric Reinhardt, who is overseeing the construction project for the USGA.
“The real time-consuming part of construction is what goes on inside those tents,” Sink said. “You’ll be in some of these tents during the championship, and they’ll look like a home.”
And will it all get done by mid-June?
“We’ve had great weather,” Reinhardt said, adding the work is on schedule. “We’ve had great cooperation from Pierce County and Kemper Sports. Everything is going great.”
By the time the world’s best golfers arrive for practice rounds, more than 300 tents will stand on the grounds. They range from the 1895 Club, a climate-controlled hospitality tent for premium ticket holders in the North Meadow, to corporate hospitality tents west of the eighth fairway, to the merchandise pavilion and other main attractions in Spectator Square in the Central Meadow.
The USGA contracts with the national firm Arena Americas to provide the shelters.
“There is not a local tent company or flooring company that can do what these people do. These people specialize in events,” Sink said. “They build the Super Bowl. They build PGA Tour events all over the country. When the White House has events that they need tents, they use these folks.”
Workers on the job last week included residents from South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
But Sink said local companies are getting a share of the pie, too.
The national and regional firms working on the U.S. Open construction have hired local companies to provide labor, materials and other services, including a University Place-based painting company, he said.
Other local firms are providing “interior decor,” including tables and chairs, Sink said.
“We’re renting,” he said. “It is not advantageous for the USGA to own any of this equipment because our events are all over the country each year.”
TAKE A SEAT
The same is true for the bleachers, which are being provided by a Virginia-based company T&B Equipment.
“They specialize in bleachers. This is all they do every day of the year,” Sink said.
Planning for placement of the risers began two years ago with scouting by an engineer, he said.
The USGA expects to have nearly 18,000 grandstand seats on the course, including a nearly 6,000-seat structure on the 18th hole. That’s the biggest 18th-hole grandstand in the history of the U.S. Open, Sink said, and will be the last set of bleachers built at Chambers Bay.
“That will be a great place to watch the championship,” he said.
The grandstands will be painted and their undersides wrapped in mesh by the time the championship begins.
“What you see today will look completely different by the time of the championship,” Sink said. “They make them pretty.”
What took three months to build will take nearly two months to tear down.
“Like I said, all of this is rentals. All of it goes. None of it stays,” Sink said.
The tents alone came in 100 trucks, and it will take that many to get them back up the hill, he said.
Crews also will be scooping up yards and yards of crushed gravel brought in for building pads and roads and replacing it with sod, Sink said.
“We’re not leaving here until the Central Meadow is in good shape, and our last truck is out of here,” Sink said. “We’ll have boots on the ground through most of the summer.”