A lone fir behind the par 3 hole 15th hole is a Chambers Bay landmark.
Chambers Bay, Pierce County’s, destination golf course, will open in two months on schedule and under budget. KemperSports, the course’s operator, began accepting tee-time reservations online at 7 a.m. Monday. Demand was immediate — 400 tee times were booked during the first two hours. By day’s end more than 700 players had booked times.
Previously 3,200 golfers were booked for group outings worth $568,000 in golf revenue and $142,000 for food and beverages. “This is good news, but we have to remember this is a long term thing,” said County Executive John W. Ladenburg.
Ladenburg cautioned that it will take years to determine if the course will meet expectatons. “We don’t want people to think we can judge success in the first six months or even the first year or two. Golf courses typically take three to five years to find out whether they are going to run the way you think they are going to run and operate.”
He likened the golf industry to the travel industry in that both are dependent on outside factors. “After 911 the travel industry went in the tank. It didn’t have anything to do with the fact you were a good travel operator. It didn’t have anything to do with whether you were running a good airline or not,” he said.
The official public opening is set for 7 a.m. Saturday, June 23. For the first shot, Ladenburg will join the four players who booked the 7 a.m. tee time. As a bagpiper plays in the background and cameras take aim, he will hit the ceremonial first shot on the par-4 first hole.
The $21 million project began three years ago with the selection of the Robert Trent Jones II LLC firm to design an Irish/Scottish links golf course that would attract traveling golfers from North America, the Far East and other locations and also attract amateur and professional tournaments of the highest rank. Judging from comments ranging from
local and regional golf writers to national golf industry leaders, Robert Trent Jones Jr. and his team succeeded with the Chambers Bay design. The course’s rugged character and imaginative holes and routing promise players peak experiences.
Ladenburg’s $685,000 request for golf course maintenance equipment was approved Monday by the Rules and Operations Committee and will be forwarded to the full council for consideration at an upcoming meeting.
Ladenburg and Chambers Bay project manager Tony Tipton convinced the committee that purchasing – rather than leasing as planned – the maintenance and operation equipment will result in a significant dollar savings. The committee of Chair Terry Lee, Shawn Bunney and Calvin Goings approved the proposed ordinance 3 to 0.
Lee said the golf course and other planned amenities on the site “will be part of the signature of Pierce County as we go forward. It is exciting, and I look forward to the success of what is occurring there.”
Bunney observed that the county purchased the golf course and surrounding property for $40 million in the early 1990s and that is now worth more than 10 times that amount. “If you go down there (Grandview Drive in University Place) and take a look at what we’re building, I think people will say Pierce County is doing this thing right. It is a gorgeous park and open space. We’re turning an eyesore of a gravel pit into a community asset that will be a legacy forever,” he said.
The proposal calls for the county to issue a single tax-exempt five-year bond to Bank of America and represents a savings of $18,000 per year as opposed to utilizing operational leases. The funds used to pay debt service on the proposed bond would come from funds previously approved by the council in the 2007 golf course budget.
The maintenance crew has been using borrowed mowers during the grow-in period. However, a fleet of new mowers will be purchased prior to the June opening if the full council passes the proposed ordinance. “We need to mow every day when we open for play, and we need to complete the mowing in a compressed period of time so we don’t interfere with play,” Tipton said.
Without the needed equipment, temporary measures would have to be taken at considerable additional cost. “We would have to scramble to see if we could locate rental equipment. If we can’t find the necessary equipment on a rental basis, we would not be able to open the golf course on schedule or we would have to pursue more expensive operational leases.”