"Golf architects kill for sites like this."
That was the assessment Friday from Robert Trent Jones Jr., the renowned golf course architect hired by Pierce County to design a world-class course on waterfront land in University Place. It marked his first public comments on the proposed 250-acre, 18-hole Scottish links-style course to be called Chambers Bay.
Inside the county's Environmental Services Building, where Friday's news conference was held, Jones and County Executive John Ladenburg described the golf course as a landmark plan that people - even critics of the publicly financed project - will come to cherish years from now.
Ladenburg, who spearheaded the project and selected Jones' Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm to design it, said he's not going to "nickel and dime" the project and that in 20 or 30 years county residents "aren't going to say 'I wish we saved $100,000 here or there.' "
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Tony Tipton, who manages the golf course project for the county, said the news conference was intended to allow Jones and his designers to talk about their vision for the project "rather than us screening those types of things all the time."
Tipton said Jones paid for his trip to Pierce County. His visit came a few days before members of the Pierce County Council review an ordinance proposed by Ladenburg and sponsored by Council Chairman Shawn Bunney (R-Lake Tapps) that would issue bonds to build the golf course in an area known as Chambers Creek Properties.
On Monday, the council's Rules and Operations Committee, which gives early review to budget issues, is expected to examine the ordinance and receive an update on the golf course project.
The ordinance would issue 30-year bonds and pledge golf course and sewer revenues to pay off the debt. The county would commit property and sales tax revenues as well, if the course and sewer revenues aren't enough.
There is no dollar amount attached to the ordinance. However, county officials previously discussed borrowing $18 million to build the course and paying an estimated $34.6 million in principal and interest over 30 years.
If the council's Rules and Operations Committee recommends the ordinance, then the full, seven-member council would vote on whether to approve it Sept. 13. The county wants to begin construction this fall and open the course for play in May 2007.
The Chambers Bay Golf Course is intended to rejuvenate a former gravel pit, enable expansion of the county's wastewater treatment facilities, generate revenues to build other parkland and open space projects and pump up the local economy.
At Friday's news conference, Jones, a 65-year-old Yale University graduate whose firm has designed more than 230 courses in 40 countries, said the publicly financed courses he's designed have produced profits, including Heron Lakes Golf Course in Portland.
He invited critics of the county's decision to publicly finance a high-end golf course to watch his firm in action.
"Come on out and kibitz and watch us do the work, " he said. "Why not get on board?"