GOLF: Financial impact of Frys.com Open already showing

Finishing touches are being done to the course this week as

Hotel rooms nearly filled for PGA Tour event
SAN MARTIN – When Fry’s Electronics and the PGA Tour announced in November that they were moving the Frys.com Open to CordeValle Golf Club, the most popular question – next to will Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson play – was what impact the tournament would have on local businesses.

For hotels such as the Resident Inn of Morgan Hill and Hilton Garden Inn of Gilroy, the answer poured in immediately. Reservations for the tournament week were being made the following day, almost too soon for rates to increase.

“We were getting calls right away,” a receptionist at the Ramada Hotel in Morgan Hill said Friday. “We’re expecting to get a lot more soon.”

“No vacancy” signs will be begin to flicker shortly as South County braces for its first PGA Tour event. The Ramada was one of few local hotels listed on the Frys.com Open website, frysopengolf.com, with rooms still available for the Oct. 11-17 event in San Martin; the tournament begins next Thursday.

“Everything is starting to pick up,” Gilroy Executive Director of Economic Corporation president and CEO Richard Spitler said. “Hotels are starting to get booked up, starting to see some of the major effect of the tournament. It’s the kind of increase in business they were hoping for.”

Restaurant owners are braced for the possible increase in business, though, reservations have picked up slowly.

John Holder, manager of the Westside Grill in Gilroy, is not sure what to expect.

“Obviously, I hope we get a lot of customers next week, but it’s hard to say,” he said. “It’s the first year of the tournament here, so you can’t really speculate.”

City officials in Gilroy and Morgan Hill feel the same way despite glowing forecasts made by Fry’s spokesman Manuel Valerio, who in November said the tournament’s impact — in terms of retail, hospitality sales and tax revenues — on South County will be about $20 million in one week. Some of the proceeds will go toward the American Institute of Mathematics, Adoption Services of Santa Clara County and a local chapter of First Tee.

Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Chris Giusiana found it difficult to gauge how much money the Frys.com Open could generate. The tournament drew a sizeable crowd at its previous site, Scottsdale, Ariz., a tourist-friendly city with more than twice the population of Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin combined.

“Most of the fans were from the area,” Giusiana said. “We’re kind of at loss. It’s hard to know what money is coming in from out of town, so to speak. But we’re definitely excited. I think this is a great opportunity to showcase our city.”

Clos LaChance, the official winery and main entrance of the tournament, is in the same position. The family-owned winery in San Martin has had an increase in business since last year but not necessarily because of the tournament.

“Summer is our busiest time anyway,” said Cheryl Durzy, vice president of sales and marketing at Clos LaChance. “October, November and December are our best months, and we think the tournament is going to help our business even more. It’s going to be fantastic for the community.”

Assuming the tournament meets its goal of drawing 15,000 fans per day — daily tickets and all-week badges were still available Monday — Valerio’s forecast did not sound far-fetched to Morgan Hill director of business assistants and housing services Garrett Toy.

“It should generate in the multimillions of sales,” he said. “Transit and occupancy tax, hotel tax … tax based on room rates, that all goes back to the city.”

The one downside for local businesses in Gilroy and Morgan Hill is the traffic routes to the tournament, which, from U.S. 101, begin at Tennant and San Martin avenues.

“It’s a catch-22,” Giusiana said. “Since (Monterey Road) is a 25-mph zone downtown, it might get too congested with a lot of tournament traffic. But some local businesses want that traffic.

“Most people coming from San Jose already know about Monterey (Road) anyway. It’ll be one of those things where we’ll just have to wait and see what kind of effect the tournament has.”

That anticipation is bound to grow each year, as the Frys.com Open returns to San Martin and eventually John Fry’s The Institute golf course in Morgan Hill.

“Anytime you have a major event like this, there’s increased economic activity that equates to more tax dollars,” Gilroy Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Susan Valenta said. “The tournament is giving our local community a chance to help our economy and show what we have to offer.”

CordeValle officials are just as excited. Their Rosewood resort and Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed championship course will be aired live for four days on the Golf Channel.

“Business has been improving this summer for the resort, our restaurants, golf and spa,” CordeValle director of golf Michael Marion said in an e-mail. “Over the past few months, the guests I’ve met have been here multiple times.

“We are very proud of the partnership with Fry’s and the PGA Tour and believe the real benefit is yet to come.”

Finishing touches are being done to the course this week as workers install the last elevated-viewing positions and scaffolds.

Said Jane Howard, executive director of the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau:

“At this point, we’re all just crossing our fingers for good weather.”

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