Sanford hotels booked as U.S. Open approaches

Jun. 06, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

After months of waiting, local hotels are finally starting to see guests trickle in for the U.S. Open tournaments.

Two large in-town hotels, Comfort Suites and Holiday Inn Express, have both been sold out for these coming weeks for about a year. Comfort Suites front desk manager Leah Dixon said most of the hotel’s guests are people who will be working at the Pinehurst tournaments — drivers, vendors and other employees — who will generally start coming into town this weekend for the men’s tournament, which starts Monday.

“This is my first time in the hotel industry doing a big event like the U.S. Open,” Dixon said. “So I’m excited.”

This year is also the first time the men’s and women’s tournaments have ever been held back to back at the same place. Local hotels have all reported being completely booked for the men’s Open, from June 9-15, and mostly booked for the women’s Open, June 17-22

At the Holiday Inn, assistant manager Angie Minnick said most of her guests came in Wednesday night. Many of them are caterers and members of the media, she said, some staying

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only a few days and others staying the whole two weeks.

And although the hotel raised its nightly rates by about $50 for the weeks of the two tournaments, she said, any cancellations have been snatched back up almost immediately.

“We’ve had one or two open up, but as soon as they do, they get booked again right away,” Minnick said.

Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce said heavy interest in the tournaments will be good for Lee County. He expects visitors to spend approximately $1.5 million here between now and June 22. Approximately 500 local hotel rooms have been booked, he said, and the N.C. Department of Transportation estimates that every day of the tournament, 10,000 to 12,000 vehicles will travel on U.S. 1 in this area.

All told, Moore County tourism officials estimate that the men’s and women’s tournaments, being held from Monday until June 22 at Pinehurst, will draw more than 350,000 visitors.

To help people find places to spend their money in Lee County, the chamber distributed 250 “goodie bags” to local hotels Thursday afternoon and is planning to deliver another 250 next week. The bags contained coupons, gift certificates and ads for everything from taxis to picture framing, nice clothes and steak dinners, all local. It’s also a good way to catch the eye of older fans who may be looking for a place to retire, said the chamber’s marketing director, Jennifer St. Clair.

“Things like this show people that we have things going on here all year long,” she said, holding a schedule for the Lee County Community Orchestra that will be in the goodie bags, advertising concerts in the fall and winter.

The chamber, along with the city and county governments, also put together a website aimed specifically at U.S. Open visitors, It features pictures of events around town and has different sections pointing people toward local shops, restaurants and the four golf courses in Lee County, the Sanford Municipal course, Carolina Trace, Quail Ridge and Tobacco Road.

Some have also taken advertising into their own hands; Carolina Trace, for example, distributed sponsored key cards to local hotels with advertisements for guests to come golf there instead of in Moore County. The deal is open to anyone, including locals, said head golf pro Mike Krick. They’re just advertising especially hard with the out-of-towners in local hotels.

“It’s our Member for a Day program, which is $79 and includes greens fees, driving range and a cart,” Krick said; the deal also includes lunch at the clubhouse and lasts until June 15. Krick said that since Carolina Trace just got done hosting qualifying rounds for the women’s tournament, the course “is in amazing shape right now.”

At Pinehurst itself, the PGA has opened what it’s calling its largest merchandise tent ever. There will be more than half a million items on sale from dozens of vendors, and even people without tournament tickets can get into the merchandise tent to shop between now and Sunday. Starting Monday, however, tickets will be required. There will be hats, jackets, shirts and other branded items at the tent, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. outside the Pinehurst Resort.

Tickets are still available online, ranging from $7 for a single day in the cheap seats to hundreds of dollars for multi-day VIP passes.