Pierce County optimistic about Chambers Bay deal

Pierce County hopes to reach a deal with a California developer in June to build a new clubhouse, hotel and other facilities at Chambers Bay Golf Course.

San Bruno-based developer Ventur-Hospitality is still seeking financing for the project – a key hurdle at a time when lenders are tight with their money. But Deputy County Executive Kevin Phelps said the company has taken its Chambers Bay proposal farther than previous potential developers of the site.

“They clearly have put a lot of work into this,” Phelps said. “That shows me that they’re taking this very seriously.”

Pierce County has tried for two years to find a developer willing to build a clubhouse, lodging and restaurant at Chambers Bay Golf Course. When the course won the right to host the 2015 U.S. Open, county officials thought developers would line up to compete for the right to invest in the project.

That hasn’t happened. Though several groups have expressed interest, none has panned out.

In January, County Executive Pat McCarthy signed a memorandum of understanding with Ventur-Hospitality, which has developed hotels and resorts in Arizona, California and Hawaii.

Among the facilities the company wants to build is a permanent clubhouse for the golf course; a hotel featuring 85 to 124 rooms; and a retail center that might include a restaurant, a coffee shop, a bakery, a bike shop or other retail services.

Under the agreement, new facilities must be open by April 2014, more than a year before Chambers Bay hosts the U.S. Open.

Since signing the agreement, Ventur-Hospitality officials have given the county additional background information about the company and a few more details of its proposal. For example, the company expects the average daily rate for hotel rooms to be $209.

More details are due in June, when the company must submit development drawings and the company must negotiate details of a lease with the county.

Under the January agreement, the county would agree to lease the company property at Chambers Bay for 55 to 75 years. The county might receive some proceeds from the facilities.

Of course, the development isn’t likely to happen if Ventur-Hospitality can’t find private financing. The county has shied away from investing public money in the project.

“They’re still working (to find) investors,” Phelps said. “That’s part of the big challenge right now.”

David Wickert: 253-274-7341