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U.S. Open a boon to city once called 'Enron by the Sea'

TorreyPines.jpg
(Getty Images photo)

By John Strege

It is apparent why the United States Golf Association wants to return the U.S. Open to San Diego's Torrey Pines in 2021: Weather, the setting, space, attendance and television ratings.

Here's why the city of San Diego wants it to return: Money. Or, as the city's official Request for Council Action puts it, "Fiscal Considerations."

San Diego's City Council has called a special meeting on Monday to approve the U.S. Open agreement between the city and the USGA. The City Council website has posted the meeting agenda, and Subitem-A begins to lay it out:

"Authorizing and directing the Mayor to execute...an Agreement for the 2021 United States Open Championship between the United States Golf Association and the City, for the hosting of the 2021 Championship, including lease of the Torrey Pines Golf Course for both exclusive and non-exclusive periods of time for a total rental amount of $2,500,000."

The $2.5 million rental fee does not even fall under Fiscal Considerations, which in essence is the windfall the city expects to realize, based on the success of the 2008 Open at Torrey Pines.

"It is anticipated that the 2021 U.S. Open will bring significant direct and indirect revenue to the City," San Diego's Request for Council Action states under the heading Fiscal Considerations. "The 2008 U.S. Open generated a regional economic impact of $142 million with specific benefits to the City of San Diego of $1.5 million in TOT [Transient Occupancy Tax] and $1.6 million in local sales tax."

Attendance for seven days (not including the playoff round) was 273,832, second highest in U.S. Open history, and 64 percent were non-local attendees, according to an Economic Impact Analysis conducted by San Diego State University's Center for Hospitality and Tourism Research.

Related: Is the USGA making a mistake with its Pinehurst U.S. Open experiment?

Among a host of other statistical information included in the analysis is that hotel and motel room nights for out-of-towners numbered 74,318, generating nearly $15 million alone. And sales of logo merchandise in the run-up to the Open totaled $11 million, with $14.5 million in merchandise sales at the Open itself.

Suffice it to say that the U.S. Open is a boon to a city that only a decade ago was dubbed "Enron by the Sea."

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