US Open means millions to area
Economic impact estimated at more than $140 million


June 21, 2015

In this file photo, Patrick Cantlay of Los Almaitos, Calif., tees off on the first hole during the final round of the US Amateur Championship at Erin Hills Golf Course in the town of Erin on Aug. 28, 2011.
John Ehlke/Daily News

It’s two years away, but that doesn’t mean businesses and communities aren’t getting ready for the 117th U.S. Open men’s golf championship at Erin Hills, a tournament the USGA projects will generate more than $140 million between Washington, Waukesha and Milwaukee counties.

“It’ll be a shot in the arm for our retail businesses and other venues, like the library and the Wisconsin Auto Museum,” Hartford Mayor Joe Dautermann said.

“If there is a serious infusion of money to local businesses, that could be a marvelous thing for growth in the downtown area.”

The U.S. Open at Erin Hills will be June 12-18, 2017. Practice rounds will be June 12-14.

It’ll be the third major USGA event Erin Hills has hosted since it opened in 2006. The course has previously hosted the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship and the 2011 U.S. Men’s Amateur Championship.

The 2017 U.S. Open will be the first to be held in Wisconsin. The championship was awarded to Erin Hills in 2008.

After this week’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, only the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania stands in the way of Erin Hills.

“It’s exciting,” West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said. “It’s right around the corner.”

The USGA, according to Elaine Motl, executive director for Visit Washington County, projected an economic impact to be between $140-$170 million.

That estimate is based on research of previous U.S. Open tournaments. The money would be generated from restaurants, gas stations, gift shops, tourist spots and hotels.

The municipalities will only get money from the tournament off the hotel tax, which can only be used for tourism.

If West Bend, for example, wanted to do a road construction project, it wouldn’t be able to use tax dollars from the U.S. Open.

The idea, Sadownikow said, is to entice people to come back once they’ve been to the area.

“Anybody who’s able to benefit financially by the U.S. Open being here and be good stewards of their money, they’ll put that money to grow,” Dautermann said. “It’s more than a temporary benefit, it’s a long-term benefit.”

Sales tax money from gas stations, restaurants, etc., is taken in by the county and the state, but for the same thing: tourism.

“This is something we’ll see as a bump for our retailers,” Sadownikow said.

On Monday, tickets for next year’s U.S. Open went on sale. The USGA capped single-day attendance at 30,000 per day. Tickets started at $50 for the practice rounds. According to, single-day passes for the first round started at $190.

Ticket prices and single-day attendance capacity won’t be set until about this time next year.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for Washington County, but also the state of Wisconsin,” Motl said. “Two years will go by very quickly. We are excited.”

“It’s an exciting opportunity for the local communities and the state on the national spotlight,” said Danielle Johnson, public relations representative for the state’s Department of Tourism.

Johnson said the state got more than $18 billion for tourism in 2014. This year, with the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler and in 2017 with the U.S. Open, the tourism economic boom figures to be higher.

“We’re really excited to host these tournaments,” Johnson said. “It really provides an opportunity to show Wisconsin as a travel destination.”

If that happens, Dautermann and Sadownikow agree if more people come to Wisconsin and then come back, it only means good things for local businesses.

“People will be spending money and businesses that are here will stay here,” Dautermann said.

Reach reporter Nicholas Dettmann at