PINEHURST, NC -- Aside from a couple of dog days of summer, Pinehurst is as it always seems to be; a near perfect setting for some of the worlds best golf. A living, breathing Norman Rockwell painting, Pinehurst is a place where, for all practical purposes, time has stood still to call back a simpler era of gentle Southern hospitality and everlasting charm. Except, of course, when you consider that approximately 400,000 people just blew through here six short weeks ago for the U.S. Open.
I can honestly say, there were no negatives this year, said Steven Smith, Mayor of Pinehurst. In 1999, people didnt know what to expect. Was the event going to be too big for the Village of Pinehurst to handle? But, Pinehurst Resort did such a great job on traffic logistics and the infrastructureit went off almost flawlessly. This year, it was a repeat of 1999 from a logistical standpoint visa vi the village. In fact, I have not heard a single discouraging word. And thats odd from a town full of retirees.
Pinehursts Village Manager, Andy Wilkison, concurs. It was noticeably more intense this time than in ninety-nine. There were way more people in town. The first two days of the Open in 1999 had maybe twelve to fifteen thousand out there on Monday and Tuesday. On the first day this year, we had some 35,000 people. We knew 2005 was going to be different than 1999 from that respect.
In fact, for tournament days, there were some 55,000 people on the course at any given time. This number includes everyone: spectators, volunteers, media, USGA officials and groundskeepers. As Mayor Smith looks back in retrospect, it couldnt have gone better. I think the U.S. Open is one of the key sporting events anywhere in the world. You think of the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Indy 500. Its certainly in the upper echelon of sport. And each year I think the U.S. Open is going to get bigger. When it comes back here again ' and I do think it will return here in 2013 or 2014 ' its going to be even that much bigger. The great thing about Pinehurst Resort, because of the abundance of space and the Resorts relationship with the Village of Pinehurst, it can handle attendance growth extremely well.
Attendance growth naturally relates to the economic impact the U.S. Open can have on a community. Caleb Miles is the President and CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau ' Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area; the official destination marketing organization for Moore County. They use an economic impact model called IM-Plan to estimate two primary revenue indicator numbers. First, the direct spending number - in the 12 counties surrounding Moore County where Pinehurst is located, estimated at $70.8 million. Second, new dollars, which takes into account payroll dollars to include the people that work in the community and not just visitors. This figure is approximately $124 million.
We use an intercept form of collecting the data. We track the number of people who attend the event, the number of days they spend in the community broken down even more specifically to day visitors and overnight visitors, and, how much money visitors spend while they are here, said Miles. Moore County has just over 2,600 hotel rooms. The U.S. Open required 10,000 rooms on peak days. We used a regional housing system that includes the twelve counties around Pinehurst to accommodate all the people. With major access points to Pinehurst like Raleigh/Durham and Greensboro being in relative close proximity to Pinehurst, people were able to find places to stay away from the tournament site while still having a convenient drive to get here.
According to Beth Kocher, Executive VP, Pinehurst Resort and Chairman 2005 U.S. Open, We are so pleased the USGA says the Open will return to Pinehurst. No specific date has been locked down but we have been told to anticipate 2013 or 2014. She went on to say, The USGA was extremely complimentary of the course, our tournament presentation, the crowds we got, they just could not have been happier.
As we all know, 9/11 changed the way everyone thinks about security. Major sporting events are no exception. Pinehurst Police Chief Ernest Hooker was handling security at the 1999 U.S. Open. It was mostly about traffic flow and pedestrian management. The 2005 U.S. Open meant real security issues. Chief Hooker was pleased with the results. The Chief says, We were concerned because of the events of 9/11. But, we had the advantage of having the Open here in 1999. We learned a lot from that experience.
Security preparation for the 2005 U.S. Open started about a year-and-a-half before the tournament. We met with not only the people putting on the tournament, but also the North Carolina State Police and the Sheriffs Departmentand from the beginning we were working towards a common goal. We were all trying to achieve the same thing ' optimum security and safety. I think we accomplished that quite well.
I think the sense of pride of hosting the U.S. Open, of being able to go the Open, of saying I live in Pinehurst and look, were on the world stagewell, in a way, this intangible package almost overrides the economic package locally, Mayor Smith said when asked if hosting a U.S. Open was worth the effort. Sure, the hotels and restaurants are packed. The business people, the retail shops, they had a significant up-tick in their business. But, its not just about economics. To see the community come together to put on this event is the real payoff.
Email your thoughts to Casey Bierer