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Chambers Bay Close to Deal on Hotel Complex
Pierce County and a hotel executive with strong local ties have taken the first step toward a partnership that would build a hotel, clubhouse, retail complex and other amenities at Chambers Bay, site of the 2015 U.S. Open. Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last week with James Burkhouse, president and CEO of Ventur-Hospitality, LLC.
"This proposed partnership represents an excellent opportunity to enhance the public's enjoyment of our amazing property while also generating revenue to support development of even more public access," Executive McCarthy said.
Ventur-Hospitality, based in San Francisco, proposes to build a Community Resort that includes:
* An 85- to 124-room hotel, including 10 detached guest cottages, as well as a restaurant and clubhouse facilities for the golf course. The complex would be built at the bottom of the hillside below the current clubhouse.
* A retail center on the hilltop site of the current clubhouse that would offer dining and shopping experiences for the general public and hotel guests.
* A "beach house" facility along the Puget Sound shore that would promote boating, fishing, dining and other recreation.
* A "cultural center" that would be designed to appeal to families, though specifics remain to be determined. The MOU cites such examples as a children's discovery center, golf museum, and concert space. This would be built in a later phase of the project.
"Chambers Bay is a national treasure, and we are excited about adding to the experience for the Pierce County community as well as for visitors. Our project provides key supporting elements to the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed golf course," said Burkhouse, who grew up in University Place and graduated from Bellarmine Prep and the University of Washington. "As a kid, my friends and I played with our skim boards on the property - well, until someone would run us off. I could not have imagined then that I would have this opportunity to build something incredibly special there."
Under the agreement, Ventur-Hospitality will develop a detailed project proposal that includes financing, revenue sharing and a construction schedule that calls for completion a year before the 2015 U.S. Open. Once certain milestones are met, the developer and the county would negotiate a long-term lease.
The MOU anticipates that the project would be financed by a combination of private funds obtained by Ventur-Hospitality and Recovery Zone Facility Bonds, which are tax-exempt bonds authorized under the 2009 federal stimulus act for economic development projects. The bonds would be repaid by revenues from the resort and retail operations.
"My team and I have met with James and his associates on a number of occasions and I feel good about what essentially is a letter of intent," McCarthy said. "I will make sure that any final development agreement maintains public access to trails, meadows and the beach."
County councilman Terry Lee, whose district includes Chambers Bay, said he will work with McCarthy and the County Council to adhere to the master site plan for the 930-acre Chambers Creek Properties, and ensure that the project honors obligations to ratepayers of the county sewer utility, which owns the land, as well as golf course construction bondholders and the USGA.
"We are just beginning to tap the economic potential of Chambers Bay," Councilman Lee said. "This development proposal represents the perfect complement to what we're trying to accomplish there - create a world-class experience that is accessible to all."
Executive McCarthy noted that the county's contract with the USGA does not require a new clubhouse since the USGA will bring temporary facilities to the 2015 U.S. Open. However, the executive wants to take advantage of market conditions, low interest rates and the window between the two upcoming USGA championships to enhance the public's enjoyment of the property and to boost the economic impact.
Ventur-Hospitality brings with it a wealth of hotel and resort experience. Burkhouse has more than 25 years of experience in hotel real estate, including development, property acquisition and financial management. He is a founding executive of Horwath Hospitality and Leisure LLC, and he served as president of the North American investment division of Hong Kong-based Park Lane Hotels International.
Other key executives are Nickolaus Klotz, who has 35 years of experience around the world, including president of Honolulu-based Emerald Management Company and president of Phoenix-based Crescent Hotel Group; and Ricardo De La Cruz, who has 30 years of experience in public and private real estate development. More information about the company can be found at www.ventur-hospitality.com.
Chambers Bay, sculpted from the remains of a gravel mine that operated for a century, opened to international acclaim in 2007. It is the centerpiece of Chambers Creek Properties, which also include parklands and trails, and is managed by Pierce County Public Works and Utilities. More information about the property is available at www.piercecountywa.org/ccp. For details about the course, visit www.chambersbaygolf.com.