Devil Ball Golf

Merion’s U.S. Open could stick the USGA with a $10 million loss

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

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Merion Golf Club awaits the Open. (Getty Images)

As the U.S. Open tees off this week, there's plenty of talk of tradition, of days gone by, of the way things used to be in the world of golf on tight, sculpted courses. There's not much talk, however, about how much a journey back in time is going to cost.

Bloomberg's Michael Buteau brings us the fascinating story of what hosting the U.S. Open, a marquee event, at a smaller venue will mean for the United States Golf Association: a $10 million loss.

The numbers tell the story. The USGA will only distribute 25,000 tickets a day, down 45 percent from the customary 40,000 to 45,000. That's up to 80,000 customers who won't be paying for tickets, buying concessions or loading up at the merchandise tent.

An anonymous source put that total figure at $10 million; USGA's senior managing director business affairs Sarah Hirshland allowed that "I don't think we'll make up for the loss." The USGA's 13 championships generated $106 million in annual revenue in 2012, Bloomberg notes, with the U.S. Open generally leading the way.

Still, many upcoming Opens are scheduled for much larger venues (Pinehurst in 2014, Chambers Bay in 2015 and Erin Hills in 2017), allowing the USGA to take the hit for one year. But it'll only be one.

"If the organization came to me and said, 'we want to go to Merion, or a venue like Merion, six years in a row,'" Hirshland said, "we'd have some real economic challenges."

Of course, there's another side to the economic impact of the U.S. Open. Philadelphia could reap a $100 million to $120 million benefit from the Open for a range of industries, from hospitality to transportation. Officials with the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau said the U.S. Open is the largest sporting event to hit the area in many years. San Francisco took in up to $150 million in economic benefits last year in hosting the U.S. Open.

For more on the economics of the U.S. Open, read the full Bloomberg story here.

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-

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