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U.S. Open brings recognition, revenue to Torrey Pines

By Scott Peters

The eyes of the nation will be on San Diego and La Jolla this week, as the Torrey Pines Golf Course hosts the 2008 U.S. Open Championship from June 9-15. This “Super Bowl of Golf” has not been in Southern California in 60 years. This year will be only the second time in the 113-year history of the U.S. Open that the event will be held on a public course. It is an honor for our city to be among such select company.

An event of this caliber attracts a large audience, with crowds of 40,000-50,000 per day expected on each of the seven days. The United States Golf Association, the sponsor of the U.S. Open, involved the city in all aspects of its planning for the event. I am impressed by the comprehensive traffic and parking management plans which will allow the event to proceed smoothly and minimize impacts on our neighborhoods.

Partly, that’s because all of the parking is at Qualcomm Stadium. Unlike the Buick Invitational and other events at Torrey Pines, there will be no public parking available anywhere near the course. Ticket holders must park at Qualcomm Stadium. This helps alleviate traffic around the course and is good news for La Jolla and University City.

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Guests may park for free in the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot all days of the championship. You can get there via trolley or by car through the Y gate off of Friars Road. Please note that this is not the main gate. Passengers will board one of 200 shuttle buses running on a continuous loop between Qualcomm and the event drop-off site, resulting in shorter waiting times both coming and going. All buses are ADA-compliant and Accessible San Diego put together an entire “Access in San Diego” guide, with information about accommodations for the disabled at and around the U.S. Open.

Even with this comprehensive plan in place, the many golfers, staff, volunteers and vendors traveling to and from the course may add to the traffic in and around Torrey Pines Mesa. I encourage those who live and work in that area to rely on alternative transportation - such as bikes, buses or taxis - if at all possible during the week of June 9.

The event’s large audience brings with it a large economic boost for the city through tourism fees and money spent at hotels, restaurants and shops around the region. The convention and visitor’s bureau built an entire marketing campaign around the U.S. Open, touting San Diego to the world as a great golf destination. Our economy benefits both in the short term and in the long term from these investments, as more people look to San Diego as a place to live, work and play.

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The U.S. Open benefits our beautiful Torrey Pines Golf Course as well. Renovations include new and improved bunkers and turf on the South Course, improved irrigation, new fencing and signage, and the addition of 37 parking spaces. Private donations helped offset the cost of these improvements. Cleanup and restoration efforts begin minutes after the final ball drops, and are totally funded by the USGA. Local golfers will benefit from these improvements long after Tiger, Phil and company leave San Diego.

Please join me in making the many thousands of visitors to our region feel welcome as we host one of the most visible and prestigious events in professional sports.

Peters is City Council President and First District Council Member.