2014 U.S. OPENS: Opens could be green for Sanford businesses

Mar. 22, 2014 @ 08:38 PM

With hundreds of golfers, even more members of the media and tens of thousands of golf fans descending on Pinehurst this June for the men’s and women’s U.S. Open tournaments, Sanford stands to prosper as well.

Most people driving in from anywhere on the east coast will take I-95, which runs from Florida to New England and intersects with I-40 in Raleigh, where drivers coming from points north would likely then get onto U.S. 1 for the final hour-long drive to Moore County.

But local business leaders are hoping travelers spend more than an hour on that final stretch, stopping to shop, eat or find a hotel room in Lee County — or that they’ll come up for a day or two during the action. The men’s tournament is from June 9-15, and the women’s tournament is from June 17-22.

As far as hotel rooms go, however, those who haven’t already found one might be out of luck. The general manager of Sanford’s only three-star hotel, the Hampton Inn off of Horner Boulevard, said all of her rooms are reserved from June 6-17 and that it’s been that way for weeks.

“I’m totally booked,” Chanti Richards said. “I have USGA groups and a TV broadcasting group.”

The state’s commerce department estimates the average overnight visitor in North Carolina in 2012 spent $540 a day. And even if visitors to Sanford might spend less than that given the relatively low cost of hotels here — most rooms advertised online are $80 or cheaper, even on weekends — the fact that the county’s approximately 500 hotel rooms could be full for two straight weeks has other business people salivating at the thought.

Those golf fans — generally a fairly wealthy demographic — who have managed to land hotels in Sanford might, for example, wish to arrive in style and take a limo to the Pinehurst Resort. If so, they’ll have options locally, including Prime Time Limousines and Sedans.

The company’s owner, Jerry Thomas, previously told The Herald that his drivers will make multiple trips from Raleigh to Pinehurst, and that he was getting calls about the tournament more than a year in advance. And this year, businesses like his stand to make double the profits because there are two tournaments happening instead of just one.

“It will be tremendous,” Thomas said. “During the last U.S. Open, we stayed sold out for the whole week, and we rented several vehicles from other companies, too. We expect a big two weeks.”

Dana Atkins, who owns both the boutique store Added Accents and the Red Sofa restaurant in downtown, said she’s also optimistic about her sales in early and mid-June, especially at the Red Sofa.

She didn’t own either business in 2005, during the last U.S. Open at Pinehurst, but she said golfers visiting this area in general often stop at her restaurant and say they read about it online and were intrigued by the menu and the atmosphere.

“They’re looking for something a little different, and we fit that bill,” Atkins said, adding that her selection of North Carolina craft beers on tap also woos many travelers after a long day on the links. She said she recently installed a television to be able to show sports, including the U.S. Open, and will have several golf-themed drink specials during the tournament.

The tournament could also be beneficial for golf courses in the area other than Pinehurst, since many of the people who come to watch the tournament might get inspired to go out and golf themselves.

Carolina Trace Country Club will even host a qualifier for the women’s U.S. Open, and it’s also offering the public a $79 “member for a day” package, for golf and lunch, until June 15.

At the City of Sanford’s golf course on Hawkins Avenue, greens fees are significantly cheaper. Manager and PGA pro David Von Canon said there won’t be any tournament discounts, but that the municipal course will be involved with promotion efforts by the city and Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce.

In 1999 and 2005, the last two times the U.S. Open was in Pinehurst, people driving down U.S. 1 might have stopped in at hospitality tents hosted by the chamber of commerce. However, it’s still unclear what the plans are for this year.

Bob Joyce, president of the chamber, said he has tried to organize two meeting with local business and government leaders about marketing Sanford before and during the tournaments this June, but that neither was fruitful due to low attendance.

A third meeting is reportedly in the works but not yet scheduled.