U.S. Open task force set

The City of University Place is looking to capitalize on being the center of the golf world for four days in 2015 when the U.S. Open comes to town.

On a split vote last week, the City Council established a task force of three council members to help promote the city, increase public awareness and learn of the city’s responsibilities for the major tournament at Chambers Bay Golf Course.

As the host city, it’s imperative University Place understand ahead of time what will be required of it, such as whether it must provide security, said Councilman Chris Nye.

“The big thing is to try to eliminate surprises come July 2015,” said Nye, who is serving as task force co-chairman with Councilman Kent Keel. Councilman Javier Figueroa is the task force’s third member.

It’s also vital to provide residents information about the tournament and let companies sponsoring or otherwise tied to the event know that University Place is open for business, Nye said. One of UP’s priorities since it became a city in 1995 is building its tax base, and city officials see the national exposure from hosting the world’s best golfers as a big opportunity.

But misinformation abounds, Nye said. He recalled a comment from an individual he was talking to who claimed that because Chambers Bay doesn’t have a clubhouse, the tournament can’t be held there.

“Awareness is going to be huge,” the councilman said.

Nye made planning for the U.S. Open a top issue in his successful run for the City Council last year and for this summer’s unsuccessful bid for a Pierce County Council seat. He finished fourth in last week’s primary.

The U.S. Golf Association, working with Pierce County, which owns the golf course, is the principal planner for the U.S. Open. University Place City Manager Steve Sugg already convened a task force of city staff to work through issues related to the tournament.

The work of the newly created task force is not intended to duplicate those efforts, Nye said. His task force could expand to include representatives of city boards and local business or community associations as its work progresses.

Concerns that the group had too many council members led to a 4-3 vote Aug. 6. Mayor Ken Grassi joined the three members of the task force in supporting its creation. Council members Caroline Belleci, Eric Choiniere and Denise McCluskey opposed it.

Critics worried the task force could set the stage for adopting new policy before it’s vetted by the full council.

“I do not believe that this is a good precedent to establish going forward,” McCluskey said.

Belleci agreed: “I do think it does present a slippery slope here.”

Figueroa didn’t like those comments, saying the task force’s intent is not to take up any major regulation but rather to be as welcoming as possible when the U.S. Open comes to town.

“We have a huge amount of work to be done in this effort, and the more we have, the better,” he said.