Chambers Bay the place to be

Chambers Bay Golf Course is generating a surge of new tax dollars for University Place, but it’s also creating some headaches for residential neighbors.

Gary Matthews lives across the street from the walking trail that overlooks the $21 million course, which opened June 23. On weekends, his neighborhood gets busy.

Parked cars line Grandview Drive West. Some belong to golfers. Others belong to people who want to get an expansive view of the course from the Soundview Trail.

“It’s a little bit of a problem trying to squeeze through traffic,” Matthews said while doing yard work with son Zachary, 3.

At least two other people have complained about Chambers Bay visitors parking in their neighborhood, said Police Chief Jim Andrews. Authorities haven’t received reports of collisions or pedestrians hit by cars.

Overall, Pierce County and University Place leaders say, the golf course’s first two months of business turned out better than expected.

Ron Klein, Pierce County’s director of communications, said people had played more than 13,000 rounds of golf at the Scottish links-style course as of Aug. 12.

That’s 30 percent more than what county officials had projected. He said the course restaurant is busier than expected with walkers stopping by for a sandwich or drinks.

So far, Chambers Bay’s biggest beneficiary is University Place. The golf course generated $9,877 in city admissions tax revenue in its first week, said David Laden, UP’s finance director.

Taking into account traditional downtimes for golf courses and the winter months, Chambers Bay is on pace to generate about 16 percent more in admission tax revenue than city leaders predicted, he said.

University Place residents will get a pair of park areas next to Chambers Bay by next year. The city agreed to pay Pierce County $350,000 to help with their development.

The 6-acre North Meadow area north of the golf course will include a formal lawn and recreation area. It’s scheduled for completion over the next few months, Klein said.

The 22-acre Central Meadow area south of the course is scheduled to open next spring, he said. It will include an 11-acre lawn, trails, parking and restrooms.

City leaders don’t expect golf course business to drop dramatically after its first year, when the novelty of playing a new course can wear off for some golfers.

“As more people play, the novelty is going to turn into an expectation,” Laden said. “They’re going to want to play it regularly.”

It doesn’t appear the golf course is directly increasing business at University Place’s stores and restaurants, at least not yet.

Dirk Thompson with the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce said it’s too early to tell whether that’s happening.

But things could pick up as the city develops its $250 million Town Center project, scheduled to open in 2009.

The latest plans call for 140,000 square feet of retail space and an upscale hotel with about 200 rooms.

Assistant city manager Mariza Craig said a development group from New York visited University Place last month to study the hotel’s feasibility.

They said the two multimillion-dollar projects could feed off each other, according to Craig.

“They recognized the importance of having an asset like Chambers Bay and its synergy with Town Center,” she said.

The golf course has brought a small uptick in business for at least one owner.

Gay Landry operates Affairs, a cafe and bakery on Bridgeport Way West. Her business hasn’t seen increased foot traffic related to Chambers Bay, but she has catered desserts for two galas related to its opening.

She said other businesses probably won’t see direct profits now, but she expects they will over the next few years.

“I haven’t seen the foot traffic yet, but that’s not to say that it’s not going to happen,” Landry said. “I feel that property is one of the most important things to happen to this area.”

Brent Champaco: 253-597-8653