Lakewood considers leasing Fort Steilacoom Park for 2015 U.S. Open parking

The 2015 U.S. Open is more than a year away, but the city of Lakewood has begun preparing for the event that’s expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people to the western edge of Pierce County.

Lakewood is poised to allow up to 5,000 cars to park at Fort Steilacoom Park during the week of the championship golf tournament. The City Council is slated to vote on a lease agreement at its meeting Monday.

The U.S. Open is set for June 18-21 at nearby Chambers Bay in University Place, but the facility is not large enough to handle parking for the estimated 235,000 people expected to visit the course that week.

To accommodate the cars and streamline access, the United States Golf Association will have at least 20 satellite parking lots in the surrounding area where people can park and ride shuttle buses, according to Danny Sink, 2015 U.S. Open Championship director.  

Having multiple locations for people to park will lessen the overall impact around the golf course, but it means traffic will increase in the outlying areas. An estimated 35,000 people are expected to visit the course each day during the tournament, Sink said.

Possible parking locations include the fairgrounds in Puyallup, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Pierce College in Lakewood, and smaller areas in University Place, to name a few. 

The USGA is also looking at the 340-acre Fort Steilacoom Park, one of the region’s largest chunks of open space. The city manages the state-owned park.

“We’ve had lots of different events that have had 2,000 people or more, so we know how to get people in and out of there,” said Lakewood Parks, Recreation and Community Services director Mary Dodsworth. “We know what areas we can park on without causing major damage.”

The park would remain open for public use while doubling as off-site parking for the tournament. Its busiest areas, including the dog park, would remain off limits to parking so people can continue to use it.

Councilwoman Marie Barth questioned the impact to baseball season if cars were allowed on the park’s fields at a council meeting earlier this week. The season would be over before the championship, Dodsworth said.

Mayor Don Anderson questioned potential impacts to the irrigation system, and cautioned against allowing cars on field areas that may not recover quickly – especially if it’s raining.

“They aren’t going to park anywhere we say they can’t park,” Dodsworth said. “Our intentions are to protect the site, protect the infrastructure, protect the resource. We’re not going to let them tear up an area we don’t feel can be restored.”

The agreement set for approval stipulates the USGA restore the area, repairing damage caused by increased vehicle traffic. The USGA would pay the city $40,000 as a base rate, plus any restoration costs.

If the council approves the contract, USGA transportation officials will meet with Lakewood public works staff to begin planning for increased traffic. Once a plan is in place, the city and USGA will embark on a public outreach campaign to let people know the routes to take. There will also be alternative routes for people who want to avoid the area during the tournament, Dodsworth said.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of work to make sure we reduce any negative impacts to the community and to the neighborhood,” she said.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467