Anticipation builds as U.S. Women’s Open approaches

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The 2011 U.S. Women’s Open will be played at The Broadmoor July 4-10.

The 2011 U.S. Women’s Open will be played at The Broadmoor July 4-10.

With the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open less than three months away, tournament Executive Director Doug Habgood is beginning to think he’s got a record-breaker in the making.

“The 2005 U.S. Women’s Open in Denver set the (women’s attendance) record with 131,000,” Habgood said. “I think it’s about time for a new record.”

Scheduled for July 4-10 at The Broadmoor, virtually every major player on the women’s golf tour has committed to the event. Every state in the union is now represented among the 2,000-person volunteer corps. Tickets have been sold to fans in 45 states already.

The buzz in the community is strong, and the tournament, he said, is almost certain to be the premier event in Colorado Springs this summer. From his office at The Broadmoor, where the tournament will be played, everything seems to be falling into place.

“This is very similar to the Senior Open that was held here in 2008,” he said. “That one drew 125,000. I see no reason why this one should not do even better.”

That’s good news for Colorado Springs. While Habgood estimates the tournament will have a local economic impact of about $25 million, interviews with those in the business community indicate that the benefits to the Springs from this level of tournament go far beyond the immediate dollars that are spent here.

“While my own business doesn’t benefit directly from a tournament like this, all businesses benefit because of the positive coverage the community receives,” said Laura Muir, president of Momentum Advertising and Public Relations. “When I look at the big picture, this is the kind of event that makes Colorado Springs a vibrant economic center.”

As a golfer, Muir has a more personal interest in the Women’s Open. She signed up early as a volunteer so she could hobnob with the pros. “It’s just a lot of fun too,” she said.

Those in the local hospitality industry expect to see a direct economic benefit from the tournament.

The Broadmoor’s reputation, and coffers, will of course be enriched by the many out-of-town guests who choose to stay, dine or linger there during the week-long event. Local restaurateur Luke Travins, co-owner of Concept Restaurants, is hoping he gets the sort of boost in business he saw with the 2008 Senior Open.

“Our sales were up 20 percent,” said Travins, who serves as one of the committee chair persons for the current tournament. “We had a fantastic week. Whether we will see that sort of bump, it’s hard to say. This is a slightly different demographic.”

Concept operates such restaurants as Jose Muldoon’s, Flatiron’s, Ritz Grill and MacKenzie’s Chop House. Flatiron’s isn’t far from The Broadmoor so he’s anticipating good sales there during the tournament. “Regardless of exactly what our increase is, this is a really big deal for Colorado Springs,” he said. “We’re talking more than 2,000 volunteers in town from all over the U.S., plus it’s the Fourth of July weekend. You can’t ask for much more.”

Habgood said his firm’s economic impact projections suggest that nearly $3.5 million will be spent locally on lodging during the tournament. Some $8.3 million will be generated for “wages and salaries.” Event food and merchandise, excluding admission fees, is estimated at $2.4 million. More than $7 million will be spent on “non-event food, merchandise and entertainment” within the Pikes Peak region. (See chart for details.)

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory falls into the latter category.

The company has 200 franchises worldwide, but, said Colorado Springs franchise owner Mazie Baalman, many customers discover the chocolate wares when they visit Colorado due to the name.

“It’s the kind of thing you may decide to get as a souvenir, to send to someone while you’re here, even though you may have seen it elsewhere,” she said. “We definitely saw an increase in business when the Seniors Open was here.”

Baalman and her husband, co-franchise owner Ron Baalman, operate four Rocky Mountain Chocolate stores in the Springs. She said they are still thinking about ways to get in front of the thousands of tourists who will be in the Springs for the tournament.

The community will receive about $1.5 million in estimated advertising value of the media coverage it receives during the week. That is huge for a community the size of Colorado Springs, said Chelsy Murphy, public relations director for Experience Colorado Springs.

“To have such large-scale events gives us not economic impact, but an exciting opportunity to put all we have to offer on display on a national and international stage,” she said.

Habgood agrees.

“This is the perfect event for this town, and it’s the perfect town for this event,” he said. “It’ll be the biggest show of the summer here. It’s the premier event, and everything will be focused on making it a success. Meantime, Colorado Springs has all these other wonderful attractions that tournament coverage will show to the rest of the world.”

Economic impact

387 Full-time equivalent jobs

$8.3 million Total wages and salaries

24,998 Hotel room nights

$3,449,000 Total lodging expenditures

6,933 Total car rental days

$346,634 Total car rental expenditures

$2,368,000 Total event food and merchandise, excluding admission