Local businesses working with event organizers to prepare for 100,000 guests
Published in the June 29 – July 12, 2016 issue of Gilroy Life
By Marty Cheek and Nicholas Preciado
South Valley business and community leaders have been preparing for nearly a year for the 100,000 or more spectators expected at the 71st U.S. Women’s Open at San Martin’s CordeValle Golf Resort. With extensive Fox Sports media coverage from July 4 to 10, Gilroy and Morgan Hill might benefit economically and through community-building from this high-profile sports event which could broaden both cities’ image nationally and even globally.
“I am excited about the opportunities the U.S. Women’s Open presents to the South Valley,” said Jane Howard, executive director of the Gilroy Welcome Center. “The location of this area between Silicon Valley and the Monterey Peninsula will showcase this destination to potential visitors looking for outdoor activities including golf, hiking and biking.”
Various local wineries — including Guglielmo, Jason-Stephens and Fortino — were selected as the official vintners for the event, promoting the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail to television viewers around the world, she said. This golf event can impact the region economically by stimulating dining, shopping and lodging with the increased tourism for the week of the U.S. Open. Many businesses have special promotions geared toward the championship, she said.
“In Gilroy, The Milias Restaurant is partnering with one of the participating wineries to encourage dining at their restaurant and The Hilton Garden Inn is offering a special golf-themed gift in the welcome bags for their overnight guests during the event,” she said.
Since November, the Gilroy Welcome Center has been working in collaboration with the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and Gilroy Economic Development Corporation in serving as the Community Engagement Committee representing the city of Gilroy to promote the U.S. Women’s Open, Howard said. All three organizations have sent email blasts to community members beginning in early 2016 with messages promoting the championship game. The Gilroy Welcome Center assisted with the placement of the U.S. Women’s Open signage banner across Monterey Road in downtown Gilroy.
“We have also provided stories featuring local Gilroy icons and B-roll (videorecordings of local sites) from the Gilroy Welcome Center media library to Fox Sports, which is the network televising the event,” she said. “In addition, we’ve contributed our 2016 Spice Visitor Guides and Gilroy Garlic Festival brochures to be included in the more than 1,000 volunteer welcome bags.”
Morgan Hill’s Tourism Alliance founder John McKay worked with the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce together with the U.S. Open’s event organizers for nearly a year to build up the local excitement about the championship where 156 golfers will compete.
“We need to make sure the entire community is aware that we will have about 4,000 to 5,000 event-associated people staying in the nearby surrounding area in addition to the projected 100,000 spectators who are all potential guests to our community,” he said.
McKay thinks Morgan Hill is striving to be known for “premium quality experiences,” and this golf championship is viewed as a premier event in the sporting world. The regional benefits from media exposure during the run of the event and spotlighting the local attractions, such as the city’s downtown and South Valley wineries, with snippets of video coverage could continue to be shown on international TV for years to come, he said.
The golfers playing the U.S. Open are “very savvy” when it comes to social media — with millions of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers. The Tourism Alliance hopes to give them a reason to share their positive experiences visiting the South Valley, he said.
“I hope that everyone understands that the entire Morgan Hill community can benefit in some way from a large high-profile event such as this one,” McKay said.
The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, the Gilroy Welcome Center and the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation have partnered with CordeValle to inform the community about the U.S. Open, said Mark Turner, executive director of the Chamber.
CordeValle hosting the U.S. Open could have a significant economic impact for the South Valley region, and that’s why the Chamber encourages local businesses to be involved in their daily activities during the championship week, he said.
“With so many spectators, professional golfers, analysts and support personnel descending upon our area, this will be an opportunity for our restaurant, shopping and entertainment industries,” Turner said. “From start to finish, the championship is a week long and that means a lot of people will be staying in and around the area. Local merchants have the chance to showcase their products, food, services, charm and customer service. The world is coming to us and we have a chance to put our best foot forward and highlight all that Gilroy and South County have to offer.”
Last summer, the U.S. Women’s Open was held in Lancaster, Pa., a community of about 60,000 people in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The city spent at least five years preparing to host the event at the Lancaster Country Club, and that made a difference in building up local pride and involvement, said Lancaster Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tom Baldrige. About 134,000 spectators attended, a record for the U.S. Open.
“I think one of the best things, in looking back now, is the fact that a year later our community still feels a sense of pride in being successful in our attempts,” he said. “Partnerships formed during that time have continued to find ways to work together.”
Economic modeling for the Lancaster business community estimated a $25 million to $30 million economic impact in the community, although it’s hard to specifically quantify that data, he said. Restaurants, retail and hotels saw a rise in revenue. Lancaster County is famous for its Amish population, making up about 5 percent of the region, so the worldwide media attention helped potential tourists learn about other regional aspects.
“There’s absolutely no doubt the coverage enhances national and international exposure,” he said. “It’s difficult to suggest there’s a bottom-line to that, but the event was great, the crowds were strong and we’re confident that it put our best foot forward not just nationally but internationally in the hopes that somebody might consider visiting here — or even better yet, moving their company here or starting their company here.”
Baldrige’s advice for the South Valley is to “do everything you possibly can to embrace this as a community in a way that the visitors throughout the community are treated well — from the golfers to the attendees — and to put as many local touches on the event as you can.”
The U.S. Open positively impacted community spirit for Lancaster, and it can do the same for the South Valley region, he said.
“Done right, the residual effects last long after the final hole is played,” he said.
By The Numbers
100,000 — Estimated attendees
4,000 to 5,000 — Estimated event people staying locally
$25 to $30 million — Estimated economic impact on last year’s host (Lancaster, PA)