Northwest News

Pierce County adopts “break-even mentality” for US Open at Chambers Bay

Pierce County government hopes to break even financially on the U.S. Open golf championship, County Executive Pat McCarthy and her staff told the County Council on Monday.

The county stands to bring in, by some estimates, upwards of $4 million in revenue for allowing the United States Golf Association to use the county-owned Chambers Bay golf course for the June 15-21 event.

But the cost of providing security and other services during the championship probably will eat that up, McCarthy and deputy county executive Kevin Phelps told council members during a Monday study session.

“We feel that at the end of the day we will receive money as a result of carrying out this event, but it will pay for all those costs,” McCarthy said. “That’s kind of the break-even mentality.”

The benefits to the region make the event well worth it, she and her staff said. The county has estimated total economic benefits to the region of more than $140 million.

Cities and towns in and around Pierce County stand to earn a windfall in lodging tax revenue, Phelps said.

And Chambers Bay will benefit from an “afterglow” that should see out-of-town golfers schedule tee times at the course for years to come, McCarthy said.

Pierce County also will get exposure when the international media descend on University Place to cover the championship, said Hunter George, the county’s communications director.

“This is more than a one-week event,” McCarthy said.

The USGA has agreed to pay the county $2.5 million to lease the golf course in University Place and to give the county a 20-percent cut of the gross revenues brought in by the sale of corporate hospitality packages.

While Phelps told the council the latter figure is still being “dialed in,” University Place city attorney Steve Victor sent a memorandum to his City Council in September estimating it at $1.3 million to $1.7 million dollars.

Whatever the final tally, Phelps said he’s confident the county will generate enough revenue to cover costs.

“I think when it’s all said and done — we’re doing very, very good — that what we’ve invested from the county perspective, and from what we expect to get from our final payments, that we’ll be able to cover our expenses and costs,” he said.

Those costs include providing 24-hour per day security in and around the golf course, Phelps said. The county is getting help for that effort from the State Patrol, the city of Tacoma, University Place and other jurisdictions.

McCarthy said $750,000 has been earmarked in both the state House and Senate budgets to cover the costs of state troopers who will be used to provide traffic control during the U.S. Open.

Councilman Doug Richardson said he’s glad for the state contribution.

“If we had to make up that, we’d have been hard-pressed,” Richardson said.

The City of Tacoma also has agreed to spend $290,000 toward the security effort and University Place another $50,000, McCarthy said. Other jurisdictions also are pitching in, she said.

Phelps said playing host to the U.S. Open was never meant to be a money-making proposition for Pierce County government.

“The biggest driver for revenue is the hotel-motel tax, and almost every one of those hotels and motels that are filled are in the municipalities,” he said. “It’s a great money-maker for all the towns and cities.”

The county has estimated that Tacoma alone could glean as much as $440,000 in lodging tax revenue during the event.

McCarthy and her staff also told the council that preparations for the championship are proceeding smoothly, including erecting a tent city and grandstands on the course.

“Everything has been going really well with the construction,” said Tony Tipton, the county’s parks and recreation director.

Added McCarthy, “It’s coming, and we are ready.”