USGA 2015 Open expected to generate up to $30M in economic impact
Athletes aren't the only ones who spend a long time getting ready for major sporting events.
Just ask Lancaster Country Club.
In 2015, the private club in Manheim Township will host the United States Golf Association's U.S. Women's Open. LCC has been preparing for years, and with reason: It will be a big deal.
"This will be like our Super Bowl," said Jerry Hostetter, who was LCC's president when the deal was inked and now serves as the event's general chairman. The Open draws massive crowds, commands international attention — and, in Lancaster County, is expected to generate an economic impact of $25 million to $30 million.
All of those, Hostetter said, are reasons Central Pennsylvania businesses should rally around the Open. LCC sees the championship as a great boon for the community, and one it "couldn't be happier" to help make possible — but it's also something with which it will need a lot of assistance to make a success.
"They feel like they get more member activity involvement with a member club versus a resort-type club," Hostetter said of the USGA.
To be sure, LCC is not on its own. USGA has a long history of conducting these championships, and by early next year it will kick preparations into high gear with three staffers working in Lancaster through the Open date.
"They have the model built. We just need to execute," said Steven Buterbaugh, the event's vice chairman. But that execution involves so many committees that Hostetter said the plans look like "a big business organizational chart": 2,500 volunteers, for which online sign-up will begin late this year or early next year; and raising $3 million in local corporate support.
So far, Hostetter and Buterbaugh said, the preparations have been mostly behind the scenes, but they have been heartened by the cooperation they have encountered. The state and its agencies have been helpful, they said, from Gov. Tom Corbett and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley all the way down to municipalities. State Sen. Mike Brubaker deserves special accolades, they said, for bringing a lot of the necessary parties together.
"Out on the edge of our property is the goat path, where the new Route 23 was going to be," Hostetter said, detailing one example of state support. Thanks to PennDOT, USGA can park vehicles there during the championship, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and keeping things convenient.
Another key partnership is going to be with the Mid-Atlantic tourism industry. Buterbaugh said there have already been meetings toward the goal of putting together ticket packages to reach out through that network and encourage people to explore other regional attractions on their trip to see the Open.
"It's an opportunity to showcase Central Pennsylvania," Hostetter said. The outside perception of what the area is and offers isn't necessarily true, he said, and putting it on the map for a week in a hundred different countries promotes business, enhances recruitment and provides another identifier as "where the Women's Open was."
One thing the Open won't be requiring is major course changes. The course was designed by William Flynn and opened in 1920, then was redone less than a decade ago, with updates such as liners in the bunkers for proper drainage, Hostetter said. LCC also renovated and expanded its clubhouse then.
Those projects were done for the club and its members because they needed to be, Hostetter said, not specifically in preparation for the Open. And, for that matter, LCC didn't seek out the Open opportunity; its consideration of the idea came only after Mike Davis, a childhood friend of Buterbaugh's from Chambersburg and now executive director of the USGA, suggested it.
"They said, 'You have a great facility, a tremendous golf course, nationally ranked,'" Buterbaugh said. "They love Central Pennsylvania, because this will be the biggest sporting event here, as opposed to this being in a major city, where it could be a secondary event."
Hostetter said Davis played the course four or five years ago and said it was championship ready, needing no major changes in preparation for the Open.
"Mike was very happy with the golf course," Hostetter said. "We really didn't do anything, and we don't have to do anything."
That's not to say that there won't be activity. As the Open draws closer late next year, Hostetter said, the community will begin to see tractor-trailers coming, setting up of stands, burying of TV cables and other parts of the "massive undertaking" as the event's physical infrastructure begins to rise.
Immediately preceding the tournament, the club will have to keep first carts and then golfers off the course for a time. Hostetter said USGA came and talked to LCC's 500 or so members about everything hosting the Open would entail, and afterward he took a straw poll to see what they thought.
"If you don't have the membership support to bring in such a large event, it's going to be a failure," he said. "The membership's solidly behind it."
Even though the Open is still a long way out, Hostetter is thinking beyond it.
"If we are successful as a community, our goal would be, in five to seven years from now, why not have another USGA event where we can bring another $25 to $30 million in economic impact to our community?" he asked.
"If the businesses rally around it and the USGA says, 'What a success, 2015 came and went and it was the best Women's Open we ever had,' in this community, they're going to want to come back. They're going to want to share a win-win again. That's important for businesses and why they would want to be a part of this."
These estimates from the United States Golf Association underscore the magnitude of the event.
• Live coverage on network and cable television: 15+ hours
• Countries to which the championship will be broadcast: 100+
• Volunteers needed: 2,500+
• Spectators expected throughout the week: 100,000+
Joining the team
Lancaster Country Club isn't the only area entity enthusiastic about the prospect of the big championship coming here.
Organizers said they're ahead of schedule on getting local corporate support, closing in on $2 million of the $3 million goal, thanks to early commitments from leading companies.
"Hosting this event is a fabulous opportunity for Lancaster County," said Craig A. Roda, chairman and CEO of Fulton Bank. "We hope that the event will encourage people to travel to Lancaster County and to return again and again to enjoy our terrific local attractions, hotels, restaurants and shops."
But that isn't the only draw for supporters.
William J. Reuter, chairman and CEO of Susquehanna Bank, said Susquehanna is committed to projects that enhance the communities it serves. And, he said, in conjunction with the Open, Susquehanna is also supporting the Annika Foundation, "a program focused on teaching children the importance of exercise and nutrition – values we promote through our employee wellness program." The foundation was created by golf great Annika Sorenstam.
Likewise, Jan Bergen, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Lancaster General Health, said the county's largest medical provider will use the opportunity to host a wellness pavilion "for our community members to learn more about prevention and wellness, and to partner with USGA golfers in sharing the health benefits of physical exercise." And, she noted, LG Health will serve as the prestigious event's medical provider.
Finally, High Companies' CEO Nevin Cooley said High is "proud and delighted" to help Lancaster join the roster of top-tier USGA destinations. According to a new release, LCC has previously hosted events such as local qualifiers, state opens, and women's and state amateur championships, but nothing on this level.
Hershey Country Club has also hosted numerous state opens and other events and, in 2012, hosted the USGA Senior Women's Amateur Championship, the first national championship that was conducted there.
"Pennsylvania courses have long hosted USGA events, and for the first time our community has been selected to join this storied tradition," Cooley said.