An estimated 229,574 people – including spectators, volunteers and staff – came through the gates at Congressional Country Club last week to attend the U.S. Open, according to figures provided by the United States Golf Association and the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County.
Attendees were tracked using hand-held scanners at Congressional’s gates. The attendance numbers increased gradually throughout the week as the tournament moved from the practice rounds into the championship rounds, with 12,598 on Monday, 17,415 on Tuesday, 23,315 on Wednesday, 37,752 on Thursday, 44,519 on Friday, 48,088 on Saturday, and 45,887 on Sunday, according to the USGA.
The Conference and Visitors Bureau is estimating that the Open provided an economic boost of $130-$150 million to Montgomery County in the form of booked hotel rooms and spectator spending at local shops and restaurants. The county’s 10,000 hotel rooms were largely sold out during Open week and were going for higher-than-usual rates, said Kelly Groff, Conference and Visitors Bureau executive director.
“The demand drives up the rates, so that’s going to be a nice bump for the hotel community,” Groff said. “The other piece of this is just the ancillary spending that comes along with having so many spectators visiting.”
The boost was spread across the county, but hotels, restaurants and businesses in Bethesda, Rockville and Gaithersburg – where championship parking was staged – may have benefitted most from the tournament, Groff said. Having media and volunteers in town from across the country also added to the economic impact, Groff said.
Bethesda restaurants reported seeing increases in customers who were traveling to and from the championship, though not as high as some anticipated. “We expected a huge increase our sales, and they were higher than they typically are, but it wasn’t crazy,” said Sara Duani, sales manager and event coordinator at BlackFinn in Bethesda.
BlackFinn participated in the “We’re Open” discount program, which was devised by a planning committee comprised of local leaders to help draw in Open spectators to local businesses.
Andy Christie, business director at Ri Ra in downtown Bethesda, also said that sales were high but not quite as high as anticipated. Business was strongest on Saturday evening and during lunch and late-night dinner services, Christie said. “We had a lot of people coming in looking to eat dinner at 10, 11 o’clock at night,” Christie said.
However, a water main break forced the restaurant to temporarily close Thursday evening and may have affected business, Christie said.
“The best part is that there were no major problems – the tournament went off very smoothly,” Groff said. “A huge piece of it was getting people down there smoothly and making sure people had a good time.”