For rent: A spare bedroom with a queen-size bed in a charming older home in Olympia, not far from Ward Lake. You’ll have the company of two cats — Dinah and Bella, along with the husband and wife who own the home — plus access to a bathroom across the hall, or off the kitchen if you prefer a shower.
The owners aren’t preparing meals, but they know you’ll be busy, so they’re willing to set out coffee and bagels in the morning before you leave. They also are looking forward to your stories in the evening after you return, perhaps shared over a glass of wine while sitting on the patio during an early summer evening in Olympia.
What kind of stories? Stories about the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay golf course in University Place, of course: the largest sporting event in South Sound history.
The four-day tournament during the third week of June has sold out, and organizers are expecting 31,000 people a day to watch one of golf’s four major events, the others being the Masters, British Open and PGA Championship.
And all those people need someplace to stay. Many have secured reservations at Thurston County hotels, bed and breakfasts, and perhaps the spare bedroom that Tim Thornton and Sandy Orock of Olympia hope to rent out during the tournament.
It’s a natural step for them because they are used to hosting foreign exchange students.
“It’s kind of neat to have people in your house,” said Sandy Orock. She and her husband are both in their 60s.
And an individual or couple can have that room for $100 a night. That might seem like a lot, but demand for places to stay has pushed room rates higher for the tournament.
George Sharp, executive director of the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau, said visitors to local lodgings should expect room rates at least 20 percent higher than normal. In some cases, though, it appears they are much higher than that.
Rooms are filling up fast or are sold out at Thurston County hotels.
The 81-room Holiday Inn Express in Lacey is sold out Wednesday through Saturday the week of the tournament, with rooms still available earlier in the week, general manager Jeetu Chaundhry said. Those staying at the Holiday Inn are coming from Arizona, British Columbia, California and Montana, he said.
Those rooms were booked during an ownership change in September, so they were able to get them per night in the range of $159 to $169, Chaundhry said.
Next door to the Holiday Inn is the 62-room Candlewood Suites. Brandie Bullard, director of sales for the hotel, said so far it has attracted some group business for the U.S. Open, booking 10 rooms between June 17 and June 19 at $150 a night.
Bullard also is familiar with the hotels in Lakewood — which include another Candlewood Suites — and one is charging as much as $499 per night for the tournament, she said.
Not every hotelier disclosed room rates, but a check of hotels in Thurston County through the travel website Expedia.com shows a range of hotel room pricing for the week of the U.S. Open starting at $102 a night to $353 a night.
Andrew Shin, general manager of the La Quinta Inns and Suites in Lacey, said his 63 rooms have sold out that week to customers who started booking in October. He declined to name his room rates for the tournament, but he said the hotel is charging almost double the typical charge.
Rooms are still available elsewhere.
Best Western Tumwater Inn general manager Jeff Bae said his 89 rooms are still open. He chalked that up to the distance between Tumwater and Chambers Bay, which is about 30 miles, he said. Still, he expects guests to show up.
“They have to stay somewhere,” Bae said, adding that no one is sure what to expect for this first-time golfing event in South Sound.
To get a better understanding of what might happen, La Quinta’s Shin called a hotelier friend in Bellingham and inquired about the effect of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.
Guests got up early and spent all day at the sporting venue, he learned, and that’s likely to play out during the U.S. Open. Shin said he might put out more breakfast in the morning, but that might not be necessary if people leave early and return late after a day of watching golf.
BED AND BREAKFASTS
Local bed and breakfasts also have captured a piece of the action, including the historic Swantown Inn in Olympia and the Inn at Mallard Cove, which is just outside Lacey on the Puget Sound waterfront.
Swantown Inn co-owner Nathan Allan said a couple from the East Coast has booked a 10-day stay in his best room, the Astoria Room, during the tournament.
That room typically rents for $189 a night, although there are discounts for longer stays, Allan said.
Allan welcomes the additional business brought by golf fans, but he also is looking forward to any return business the tournament generates.
So is the Red Lion Hotel Olympia, director of sales Jeff Bowe said.
Bowe recently attended a Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau event in which a USGA official told the audience to focus on what happens after the tournament, after the beauty of the area has been televised.
“It’s going to attract a large audience, so how we can best market ourselves to the world?” Bowe said. “There’s a lot of heavy lifting ahead of us.”
The Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau has set out to capture that repeat business by creating a rack card to be distributed to hotels, visitor centers and sporting goods stores, reminding people where they can stay and play golf in Thurston County, executive director Sharp said.
Golf fans also have booked rooms at the Inn at Mallard Cove, a 4,400-square-foot Tudor revival-style home that occupies 14 acres and offers commanding views of Puget Sound and Anderson Island.
“You feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but it’s only three-and-a-half miles to the interstate,” said co-owner Don Malatesta, who bought the property in 1999 with his wife, Linda, then spent the next several years on renovations before opening in 2006.
Their room rates, which range from $189 a night to $219 a night, will not change, he said.
Interested in that spare bedroom that Tim Thornton and Sandy Orock have for rent? You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.