No one in Blaine needs reminding that showtime is less than a month away.
They know private jets soon will swoop into town carrying some of golf’s top talent as thousands pour into the Anoka County suburb come July for the inaugural 3M Open, Minnesota’s first regular PGA Tour stop in 50 years.
Across more than 200 countries, golf enthusiasts tuning into the event will hear broadcasters say, “Here we are back in Blaine, Minnesota.”
“This isn’t Minneapolis or St. Paul. This is in Blaine,” said Erik Thorvig, the city’s economic development coordinator. “We want to make sure we have our best foot forward.”
It’s why crews are carpeting medians in fresh shrubs and daylilies. It’s the reason a local road is getting a nearly $1.2 million makeover, and sleek white-top tents and grandstand seating are rising from the landscape at the TPC Twin Cities golf course.
City officials are treating the July 4-7 event as something akin to a debut party for their booming community, as the city works to shed old perceptions. Locals say Blaine’s outdated image of a remote town with sod farms and mobile home parks has been tough to shake.
“We are much more than that now,” Thorvig said.
Blaine is no stranger to crowds and big events. The youth sports hub attracts more than 25,000 people a day for soccer during the USA Cup at the National Sports Center. Thousands pack the sports center campus for Joyful Noise, a Christian music festival.
But the golf extravaganza is being touted as the biggest event that Blaine has seen yet, with about 35,000 people expected to surge onto the golf course on a given day.
“Blaine has never seen an event of this size,” said police Capt. Dan Pelkey, the city’s emergency management director. “It’s going to bring us into the spotlight.”
A rising profile
Much has changed in Blaine since the first golf balls thudded onto the green at TPC Twin Cities, a 19-year-old course designed by the late Arnold Palmer with help from Minnesota-born golf champion Tom Lehman.
Blaine has grown by about 20,000 people since then. It’s now Anoka County’s biggest city and one of the fastest growing cities in the region with more than 66,000 residents, according to new estimates from the Metropolitan Council.
A decadeslong housing boom has helped spur Blaine’s rapid growth. City officials say lower taxes and development costs in Anoka County mean there’s more house for the buck in Blaine than in neighboring counties. Many in town trumpet the suburb’s easy 20-minute commute to downtown Minneapolis.
“Blaine is very similar to other ... communities like Woodbury and Eden Prairie,” said Council Member Jess Robertson. “We have great amenities here. I think it will surprise people.”
Shops and restaurants have followed the rooftops. A new hotel is racing toward completion near the sports center. The suburb’s first brewery opened last year.
Previn Solberg, a co-owner of Invictus Brewing Co., said his business will be at the 3M Open with some special offerings, including a new beer made with orange peel, lemon grass, ginger and coriander.
The young brewery is speeding up its timeline to ready its first batch of canned beers in time for the tournament, he said.
“To us, it obviously means exposure,” Solberg said. “We were all in from the get-go.”
Local businesses in Blaine and beyond are counting on a boom in traffic from the 3M Open. Organizers estimate that a PGA Tour event will bring about $50 million in economic impact to the Twin Cities region.
That’s compared to the estimated $17 million from the PGA Champions Tour men’s senior golf event held at TPC Twin Cities from 2001 to 2018. The last time the state had a PGA Tour stop was in 1969, the Minnesota Golf Classic at Braemar Golf Course in Edina.
Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska played host to the Ryder Cup in 2016, a competition between American and European golfers that drew an estimated crowd of 250,000 over six days.
Attendance at the 3M Open could total more 150,000 people over the week. TV feeds will crisscross the globe, reaching about 225 countries.
“All the focus on professional golf for that week will be here, out of Blaine,” said Peter Mele, 3M Open tournament director. “It’s almost like a Chamber of Commerce piece for four days.”
Many visitors will catch shuttle buses to the tournament and park at the National Sports Center, where the city and county are splitting the bill on a roughly $300,000 project to pave a gravel road leading to parking lots.
Crowds also will flock to the sports center for a ticketed Zac Brown Band concert at a summer bash crowned with a fireworks show. The Fourth of July holiday weekend is normally a quiet time at the center, with soccer fields resting ahead of the USA Cup in mid-July.
“The fact that we’re going to have thousands of people on our campus when we normally wouldn’t is a positive for us,” said spokesman Barclay Kruse. “It helps put Blaine on the map.”
Police say security will be tighter than for the Champions tour event, and city officials are working to spread the word about parking restrictions. Those living inside the security perimeter will need a special pass to get into the neighborhood.
At an open house last month, residents crowded into City Hall to grab parking maps and thumb through brochures on rental licenses for their homes.
Many voiced concerns about traffic, wondering what the security perimeter encircling the neighborhood would mean for daily dog walks and backyard barbecues.
Blaine resident Janelle Miller, who lives on the course, has been weighing her options to get people to her house for a party that week. Miller and her husband considered shuttling them inside the perimeter on a bus equipped with a pass.
Now the plan is to have friends, family and co-workers leave their vehicles at the sports center and use the tournament park-and-ride system to reach the Saturday soiree.
Come showtime, the Millers will have a fine view of the action from their backyard.
“My husband is a big golfer, so he’s really excited,” Miller said. “I think it’s great for Blaine.”
Hannah Covington • 612-673-4751