Security – local, state and federal – was highly visible at the recently completed U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C., with some state troopers flashing their vehicle lights at entrances to the golf course and others prowling the links looking for any trouble.
About 1,000 security personnel were involved, with roughly half hired by the United States Golf Association. Even more will be needed when Chambers Bay Golf Course hosts the 2015 U.S. Open next June in University Place because that course has a waterfront that will need to be patrolled.
According to a report Sunday by The News Tribune’s Steve Maynard, the state stands to reap about $6 million in sales tax from the event, which is expected to attract 235,000 spectators over seven days. Pierce County – which owns the golf course – will likely get less than $1 million in sales tax revenue.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is preparing to do its part to provide security, and officials have been visiting U.S. Open sites since 2010 to get a feeling for what will need to be done here. But they have no illusions that they can go it alone; the state needs to step up. And given the amount it should earn in sales tax – plus the economic impact of $140 million to $150 million in the region – helping with the cost of security is the right thing to do.
But the last session of the Legislature failed to come through. Although lawmakers directed the State Patrol to help with traffic control, the transportation budget didn’t include any money for the extra duties. So Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed that section.
Here’s an idea: If the state doesn’t want to pay for the extra security, just funnel all of its U.S. Open-related sales tax to Pierce County. That $6 million should cover a lot of officers’ overtime and private security.
That’s a facetious suggestion, to be sure. But the Legislature only has one more shot at providing the needed funds – in the session that begins in January 2015.
Other cities in the region also need to step up and help. They stand to get a surge of tax revenue from filled-up hotel rooms and restaurant business. And they’ll get enormous, valuable exposure to the national and international business visitors who buy USGA tournament packages as well as from the television coverage of the event.
They got a taste of that from the successful 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship held at Chambers Bay – but that impact is expected to be dwarfed by the U.S. Open.
The flip side of good exposure is bad exposure – and that could happen if the region doesn’t step up to help ensure that the widely viewed tournament is a success. University Place and Pierce County aren’t the only ones who stand to gain – or not – depending on how well the event comes off.