Surf City prepares for U.S. Open

The U.S. Open of Surfing is set to descend on Huntington Beach on Saturday — and with it, one of the largest tourist crowds of the year.

To the city's beachfront hotels, that means reservations filling up by May or June. To drivers, it means gridlock around Pacific Coast Highway. To restaurants, it means a bonanza of potential customers. And to the city's Marketing and Visitors Bureau, it means just that: plenty of marketing and plenty of visitors.

"It brings a lot more foot traffic to the community to spend dollars in the community, including staying in the hotels," said Steve Bone, the bureau's president. "The hotels fill up, not only along the beach, but along Beach Boulevard. And second, it helps brand the community as the best surfing destination in the United States."

As Surf City prepares for what Bone calls its "most iconic" event of the year, hotels and safety personnel are anticipating a crunch of between 250,000 and 500,000 visitors — double to triple the city's population, and more than its 1,800 hotel rooms can hold.

Police Lt. Russell Reinhart said he's looking forward to working the U.S. Open, as he has for the last two decades. He recommended, though, that out-of-town revelers get an early start if they want a decent seat.

"For people coming down, plan on it being a busy day," Reinhart said. "Plan on there being a shortage of parking, and try not to get upset about it. It's a very popular event, and it's definitely worth it."

During the competition, Reinhart said, the department will put an extra 10 officers and two sergeants on duty.

IMG, the event's promoter, footed the cost of the added personnel, he said.

The Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa and Shorebreak Hotel, all of which overlook the pier area on Pacific Coast Highway, expect to be packed during the days of the Open.

Cheryl Phelps, the general manager of the Hyatt, said all her rooms for the days of the Open were booked by mid-June, with guests ranging from corporate executives to competing surfers and their families.

"That week is like our Super Bowl," she said.

Jennifer McLaughlin, the marketing director for the Hilton, said her hotel partnered with Fuel TV last year to provide a free bottle of sunblock for every guest room and planned to do the same this year. Marco Perry, the general manager of the Shorebreak, hooked up with Red Bull to provide a free energy drink for every guest.

Perry said the excitement surrounding the Open made him glad for an additional reason.

"What I'm noticing this year is that there seems to be more corporate sponsorship interest in the U.S. Open, and I read that as a good sign for the economy," he said. "The marketing budgets seem to be bigger this year."

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