Special Reports

Chambers Bay golf course deficit expected to last, but Pierce County official isn’t worried

This year’s budget trouble at Pierce County’s Chambers Bay Golf Course may spill over into next year as well.

Deputy county executive Kevin Phelps told the County Council on Tuesday that “the likelihood is strong” that Chambers Bay will finish this year with a budget deficit. And he also expects the course to run a deficit next year as well.

But Phelps said the county will come out ahead when revenue from the 2015 U.S. Open championship is taken into account. He told the council that payments of up to $5.5 million from the United States Golf Association in coming years will more than cover those deficits and pay for course improvements.

“Yes, we think there will be a deficit,” Phelps told the council. “We’re doing everything we can to minimize it.”

Chambers Bay finished the first half of the year with a deficit of more than $700,000. While a strong August and September might help, it’s likely the course will finish this year in the red.

County officials say the recession limited the number willing to pay up to $169 a round at the University Place course.

While the course is making enough to cover its operations, it’s doubtful it will generate enough to cover an $800,000 debt payment due in December.

Phelps has said the course may borrow from the county general fund or sewer fund to cover deficits. He told the council that guaranteed payments from the USGA – payments due under the county’s contract to host the U.S. Open – would be used to repay any interfund loan.

The County Council will have the final say over how the county covers the Chambers Bay deficit. Previously the council pledged to sell land near Chambers Bay to help repay the $21 million golf course debt, if necessary.

In other Chambers Bay news:

 • County Executive Pat McCarthy told the council that USGA officials who visited Chambers Bay last week remain committed to staging the U.S. Open here. In fact, McCarthy said they indicated it’s possible the course will be included in a regular rotation for the championship, perhaps every 10 years.

 • The county is having a hard time finding a private developer to build a permanent clubhouse, lodging and restaurant facilities. But McCarthy said the USGA isn’t worried about that and is more focused on improving the course.

 • Pierce County is close to announcing two major sponsors for next year’s U.S. Amateur championship. McCarthy said those two sponsorships would generate $350,000. She said the county hopes to raise $1.2 million from sponsors.

County officials have said they will need to raise $600,000 to cover the cost of hosting the U.S. Amateur.

David Wickert: 253-274-7341