Although the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck is less than one week away, coronavirus has dampened the economic mood ahead of the tournament, which historically attracts millions of dollars to the golf site.
After the USGA opted to postpone its biggest tournament from late June to September – and break a TV contract worth an estimated $1 billion – businesses in Mamaroneck were dealt a huge blow when the state allowed the tournament to take place in the village, but without fans.
Instead of an estimated 40,000 visitors per day coming through the gates to witness the U.S. Open and flooding the downtown areas, the tournament will see approximately 2,000 essential personnel onsite for the duration. The U.S. Open runs Sept. 17-20.
The storied Winged Foot club has hosted the U.S. Open on five previous occasions.
But in late July, the USGA, along with the state of New York, jointly announced there would be no fans at this year’s event. Since the PGA tour resumed after a COVID-19 hiatus, no fans have been present at any tournament.
Josh DeSiena, a resident of Mamaroneck and the owner of Doc James Cigar Lounge on East Prospect Avenue, says there is excitement among golfers that the U.S. Open has returned to the village after 14 years. But the mood among business owners, particularly retailers and restaurant owners, took a grim turn when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month that spectators would be barred.
“I don’t know if it is better for the retail stores, but I have a lot of customers that play golf and can’t wait to see Winged Foot on TV because it’s a beautiful place,” DeSiena said.
Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, a village of less than 20,000 residents, last hosted the U.S. Open in 2006.
Economic impact projections for the U.S. Open have been estimated to exceed $130 million, so county administrators and local businesses expected a banner year for hotels, restaurants and retail shops in lower Westchester. That all began to change when the shutdown in March halted all tournament preparations.
In recent months, economic projections for the tournament have turned pragmatic. County Executive George Latimer summed up the radical downturn.
“We’re going to do 20 percent of what we would have done in local money; the restaurants in Mamaroneck and White Plains and Scarsdale would normally be filled. We’d have the hotels booked for the week. There would be a lot of catered events off-campus where corporations invite guests,” Latimer said. “We miss that by not having the normal crowds.”
Justin Zeytoonian of SmokeHouse Tailgate Grill in Mamaroneck, located next to Sal’s Pizza, said the first blow to the local economy came when the USGA opted to postpone the tournament from June to September.
The Hudson Valley only resumed outdoor dining on June 9, less than two weeks before the original start date for the tournament. Zeytoonian, a managing partner at SmokeHouse, said events and holidays like the Firemen’s Carnival, Father’s Day and the Fourth of July tend to lure visitors to the village and the surrounding areas from April to July.
The U.S. Open would have coincided with the busiest time of year for restaurants in Mamaroneck, he said. But despite coronavirus dragging revenues down by 10% during the first half of the year, there is still some opportunity to make a profit during the U.S. Open, Zeytoonian said.
“In the current environment, our capacity has actually increased because of ,” he said. “We’re not going to get the crowd that just wants to grab a beer before or a beer after … but we have a favorable menu for golfers.”
By the numbers
The USGA estimates 20,000 tickets were sold every day during the 2019 U.S. Open in Pebble Beach, California.
The looming threat of a spike of coronavirus cases capped attendance to essential personnel – or fewer than 2,000 people – at Winged Foot this year.
The USGA began issuing refunds on July 29, three months after announcing the postponement of the tournament until September. The association expected corporate events to account for 10,000 to 20,000 spectators and hotel guests during the tournament.
Despite the abrupt changes to the tournament during a year like no other, Latimer is hopeful the county will benefit from positive media attention in the long term.
“A U.S. Open, and particularly one at Winged Foot, will attract attention to Westchester.” he said. “That will attract tourism when all this lifts. We won’t get the revenue in the short term we’d like to have, but we’ll still get the benefit of identification that comes from national TV attention.”
Volunteers at this year’s US Open will be capped at 450 and will consist of Winged Foot club members only. Restrictions have been put into place for golfers, caddies, family members and press at the venue.
Attendees will be required to test for coronavirus ahead of time and to comply with PGA Tour regulations surrounding daily screenings and temperature scans.
Visitors from quarantine states are exempt from Albany’s mandatory 14-day quarantine order.
Mamaroneck Village Manager Jerry Barberio wished things were different.
“There’s a lot of people still dealing with the repercussions of this pandemic,” he said. “Sports can be a distraction and a welcomed distraction, but we’re still trying to deal with getting back to normal life.”
Daily visitor projections exceeded 40,000 people for the duration of the tournament before the pandemic, according to the village manager.
Plans for the U.S. Open began at the start of the year, he said, and called for a trolley system from Harbor Island Park through Mamaroneck Avenue toward the Winged Foot Golf Course and increased spending on municipal services like police and emergency services.
Plans for the tournament are far less opulent as a result of the coronavirus, he said.
Mamaroneck Town Councilman Jeffrey King put it more bluntly
“In a year of disappointments, this is just another one,”
Mario Marroquin covers real estate and economic development. Click here to see his latest stories. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mars3vega