When it’s said and done, an estimated 140,000 golf fans could pass through the gates of Sahalee Country Club July 26 – Aug. 1 for the 2010 U.S. Senior Open.
But the impact on Sammamish itself is expected to be minimal.
Sahalee has hosted two other major golf events in its history, including the 1998 PGA Championship and the 2002 World Golf Championship-NEC invitational.
There is a change this time around, however.
“The difference from both those years is that we’re not going to be using residential streets,” said Deputy City Manager Pete Butkus, who’s in charge of coordinating city services with the event.
During the 1998 PGA Championship, shuttles were directed from Redmond’s Marymoor Park, up Highway 202, onto Sahalee Way NE and through a residential neighborhood to the course. In 2002, they were sent from Marymoor Park onto Eastlake Sammamish Parkway, up Inglewood Hill Road and onto 228th Avenue.
This time shuttles will be sent from Marymoor Park, onto Highway 202, up Sahalee Way NE, and directly to the course off of Sahalee Drive.
No foot traffic is permitted from the outside and only golfers, caddies and media will be allowed to drive to the course. Volunteers, VIPs and the general public will all be bused in.
“We feel like we have a better plan even than they had in the past,” said Championship Director Mike Zinga. “There weren’t really any traffic complaints even back then.”
Due to the shuttle service, Butkus said there won’t be an extra need for traffic mitigation in Sammamish. The only real police presence will be at the country club itself.
“When you’re hauling 20 people per bus, it just takes the impact right off traffic,” he said.
While congestion shouldn’t exist on the Plateau, concerns aren’t completely eliminated — particularly among Sammamish business owners.
“There will definitely be some (business), but the larger economic impact will be to Redmond because of the all the hotels and the fact that they’re busing people in from Marymoor,” said Deb Sogge, executive director of the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce.
She said some Sammamish businesses were offering specials to try and draw in customers. La Casita will offer 19th Hole promotion to event volunteers that includes a free appetizer for every drink purchased. During May and June, participating Sammamish businesses will offer residents free tickets to the U.S. Senior Open, donated by the United State Golf Association.
“We’re doing everything we can to get Sammamish businesses involved,” Sogge said.
Zinga noted that 90 percent of the vendors working the event were from the Seattle area. But he highlighted the unique exposure Sammamish will get on ESPN and NBC.
“That type of advertising over a four-day span on national TV is not something every commmunity gets,” Zinga said.
The U.S. Senior Open will draw in some of largest names in golf for players over 50. Zinga said about 80 percent of the top seniors in the world have displayed interest by booking hotel rooms. Local legend and honorary chairman, Fred Couples, leads that group. Others expected to attend include Greg Norman, Tom Lehman, Fred Funk, Jay Haas, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller and Mark O’Meara.
“In an area that’s starved for golf and has the fans, makes this a great place to host an event,” Zinga said. “The trees and the Northwest geography make it something these players don’t get to play every day. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play in the Northwest because they just don’t have a lot of events here.”
Tickets for the U.S. Senior Open are currently on sale. They are available at www.2010ussenioropen.com, in all Fred Meyer stores, or by phone at 877-281-OPEN. Kids 17 and under are admitted free Monday through Sunday, with a ticketed adult.