Opinion

Entire region set to benefit from U.S. Open

In the coming weeks, you are going to hear a lot about the extraordinary opportunity we have in hosting the U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay.

You will also read about some of the inconveniences, which is why it's important to keep this incredible experience in perspective.

The United States Golf Association has conducted our national golf championship 114 times, but the 115th will be the first in the Pacific Northwest.

Some recent local media coverage has focused on the USGA's preparations for a "fan experience" in Seattle, the need to begin closing Chambers Creek Regional Park in phases, and concerns about traffic and parking.

These are understandable questions and concerns since our community is new to the U.S. Open.

The championship is expected to generate more than $140 million in spending in the Puget Sound region. This includes tens of thousands of hotel nights, busy restaurants, more than 1,000 local hires to build and staff the championship, the sale of millions of dollars in merchandise, and more.

The direct benefits will extend beyond Pierce County – to Olympia, to Bremerton, to Seattle.

We calculate the championship will generate an estimated $10 million in tax revenues for state and local jurisdictions through sales and tourism taxes. (In fact, the state collects the largest share of the sales tax, which is why we're asking the Legislature to help us provide security.)

And that's just the short-term view. Other U.S. Open communities have told us to expect a big boost in tourism for years to come.

Some 150 million people around the world will watch the U.S. Open on television, and millions more will follow the news coverage of it. They will see Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and glimpses of the people and places that make this such a spectacular place to visit.

Tourism generates $1 billion a year in the South Sound – and that's before all of the upcoming exposure from the U.S. Open. Really, the total benefit is incalculable.

How often do you go to Seattle and spend money on professional sports and other entertainment options? Isn't it nice that the South Sound has grown so much in recent years that Seattleites have exciting reasons to come here? Thanks to the media coverage and the fan experience, many of them are about to learn that.

Sure, we would love to see the USGA host its fan experience here, which is why we made sure the association knew about venue options in this area. But to be frank, there is a much larger market in Seattle, so it certainly makes business sense to expand the U.S. Open experience beyond the border of Pierce County.

The eyes of the world – and even the eyes of Seattle – will be on Chambers Bay and Pierce County over the coming months. National and international media outlets are already writing about it with excitement.

We have to close Chambers Creek Regional Park for several months, but thankfully we have the Foothills Trial, Point Defiance and other amazing parks to enjoy. There will be additional traffic in some communities as spectators utilize the USGA's free park-and-ride system, but it's just for a short time.

This is an opportunity for the South Sound to get some well-deserved time in the spotlight. Let's make the most of it. It's worth it.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy is chair of the 2015 U.S. Open Operating Committee.

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