Clubhouse, lodging, restaurant await development at Chambers Bay

A group of local investors has approached Pierce County about building a clubhouse, a restaurant and lodging at Chambers Bay Golf Course.

The identity of the investors remains secret. And the county hasn’t received detailed plans. But the talks could jump-start a key project at the University Place golf course.

“They’ve approached us. They’ve convinced us that they’re serious about it,” said Tony Tipton, the county’s Chambers Bay project manager.

The county wants a private developer to build an upscale lodging and restaurant facility to match the elite course. It also needs a permanent clubhouse for Chambers Bay, which has been using a temporary facility since it opened in June 2007.

When Chambers Bay landed the 2015 U.S. Open last year, county officials thought developers would jump at the chance to build the new facilities. But when the county requested proposals last spring, it got only four responses – fewer than expected.

The county later began talks about the new facilities with KemperSports, which manages Chambers Bay. The company asked the county to consider investing in the project, which could cost from $15 million to $80 million, depending on the size of the facilities.

But that idea didn’t go over well. County officials want a private developer to take responsibility for the project. County Councilman Terry Lee, R-Gig Harbor, said the council would be willing to provide the land, but probably not anything else.

Enter the local investors.

Tipton said the county has done some digging and determined that the group can finance the project. County officials have asked the investors to submit conceptual plans to start a conversation.

Ideally, the clubhouse and other facilities would be open before the U.S. Open in 2015.

Tipton downplayed talks with the local group.

“We certainly don’t want to overstate where we are at this point, only to have it evaporate later on,” he said.

But county officials still want to develop facilities at Chambers Bay that match the upscale golf course. Tipton said the lodging would be “not just a run-of-the-mill hotel operation.”

“We need to do something that’s special,” he said.