Move will elevate the experience, for players and sponsors, of the U.S. Open Championships set for area
PINEHURST, North Carolina (Dec. 2, 2020) – Plans for a United States Golf Association headquarters in Pinehurst are expected to come with a multi-million dollar influx of economic activity over the next 10 years along with a commitment to hold five U.S. Open Championships at Pinehurst No. 2 between 2024 and 2047.
Pinehurst’s Village Council has now approved an economic incentive package in support of Pinehurst Resort’s efforts to elevate the experience, for players and sponsors, of the U.S. Open Championships held there. That approval came in a unanimous vote Tuesday evening.
The resort is proposing to build a 36-room hotel just west of the Pinehurst Country Club, on the current site of two croquet lawns. That’s near the proposed location of the USGA’s second headquarters, where the resort now has six tennis courts and shuttle parking.
Pinehurst Resort President Tom Pashley told the Village Council that the hotel would function much as other resort properties throughout the year, but during the U.S. Open would be reserved for players and other VIPs.
“Pinehurst and the USGA believe this hotel could provide a unique experience to the overall championship for both players and potential hospitality partners,” said Pashley. “One of the main goals of the frequency of their return is to try to do things a little bit differently and begin to establish some facilities that provide a differentiation for a U.S. Open in Pinehurst. We want the players to think this is a really special U.S. Open and we think this facility could contribute to that.”
The USGA facility will incorporate golf equipment testing, its turfgrass agronomy and management section, and a combined museum and visitor center. For now, that’s all that’s known about the two projects.
“What we’re looking at today is an incentive agreement. It is not a specific plan; there’s been no specific plan given to the Village Council or the village staff at this point,” said Mayor John Strickland. “We have some ideas about what they want to do, obviously, but there will of course be other hearings in the future when those specific site plans are delivered.”
The 10-year package of economic incentives to Pinehurst Resort involves repayment of up to 90 percent of property taxes paid on the new facilities over and above the current tax value, in exchange for a $16.2 million building investment and creation of at least 20 full-time jobs averaging at least $30,000 per year plus benefits. It sets a March 1, 2024 deadline for that investment and job creation, forecasting that the hotel will be operational before the U.S. Open is next played in Pinehurst.
The agreement also stipulates that the resort and village will work “in good faith” toward a separate solution to the parking shortage at the Carolina Hotel and other locations in the village and within the resort.
“I think that part of the USGA wanting to be here on a more frequent basis, which many of us are very excited about, is because there will be infrastructure here to accommodate players and the press and all kinds of things going forward,” said Councilwoman Judy Davis. “So I think we’ll have some growing pains going through this, but I think in the long term as we look back at this in five or 10 years we’ll recognize what an excellent contribution this is to the quality of life and it definitely underscores the history of golf and the history and importance of Pinehurst Resort.”
Of the 10 Pinehurst residents who spoke during a public hearing before the Village Council’s vote, about half were croquet enthusiasts concerned about the loss of the two lawns. Pashley said that the resort hasn’t yet committed to a specific new location for croquet at the Pinehurst Country Club.
“We know there will be people concerned about where will their amenities go that they’re currently enjoying, and we’re going to work to address those concerns but we’re months away from potentially breaking ground after we work through the process with you all,” he said.
“This is a process, and if everything doesn’t play out the way we hope that it will, there may be no hotel. We can’t plan where it’s going to go until we know that it has to. There are a variety of locations where we would certainly like to relocate the potential tennis that’s being displaced as a result of the USGA facility, and the croquet.”
In its lengthy history of upgrading properties in the village and building new ones, as detailed by Councilwoman Lydia Boesch, Pinehurst Resort hasn’t requested economic relief from the village.
But Pashley said that the potential new hotel is integral to the resort’s plans now that its course No. 2 has become the USGA’s first declared “anchor site” for the U.S. Open. Situated above the nine-hole Cradle short course, it would be the resort’s first hotel property with views of a golf course.
“The reason that we are here today to ask for the incentive is because it is part and parcel of the USGA agreement and Pinehurst would not be on the same timetable with this project were it not for the announcement that was recently made,” said Pashley.
“Right now a lot of temporary facilities are set up wherever the USGA goes to provide these amenities for players and we’d like to find a way to begin to build some more permanent structures that are multi-use, that can be one thing during the seven days of the U.S. Open and the rest of the year it can provide an amenity for the resort.”
Other speakers during the public hearing brought up the parking shortage on either end of Carolina Vista, both at the Carolina Hotel and near the Pinehurst Country Club, as well as concerns about traffic on Shaw Road.
“The only sketches we’ve got so far show the footprints of the building but they don’t disclose anything about where adequate parking would go for those new operations,” said Councilwoman Jane Hogeman. “Both operations seem to be taking at least some of the existing parking away, so that’s going to have to be part of the equation.”
Boesch pointed out that the proposed hotel, like the USGA buildings, will all be subject to Pinehurst’s standard approval process and vetting through its Planning and Zoning board.
“Tonight is just looking at the incentive agreement, but we hear you loud and clear,” she said. “This is just a process. Whatever they want to construct will have to go through the same process. It’ll be a zoning change, it will go through planning and zoning, there will be public hearings, you will be able to see everything they want to do, you’ll be able to come to hearings and you’ll get the opportunity to say again what you said tonight.”
Councilmember Kevin Drum likened the proposed hotel to “a straw on a camel’s back” relative to Pinehurst’s parking shortage, but he said that he trusts that the village will be able to devise a solution in partnership with the resort.
“I believe we’re too small a village to not come to terms with this,” he said. “I think we just have to have faith in each other and I know it’s tough for some people in the audience, but I think we’ve just got to agree to solve this issue, and if we agree to solve this issue, we can solve it.”