Politics & Government

Rising revenues at Chambers Bay golf course driven by tourists, merchandise sales

Hosting the U.S. Open is starting to pay off for Pierce County’s Chambers Bay golf course.

The course recorded a $435,000 profit in 2014 — its second straight year operating in the black – as total revenue rose 15 percent to $6.9 million.

The county on Monday released its annual report on finances for the course. It was full of good news for a project that bled $1.8 million in 2010 and had to borrow money from other county funds to claw through the recession.

“It’s been a lot of hard work to get us here, and of course the U.S. Open is providing the greatest impact for why we’re able to go from being in the red to being the black,” said County Executive Pat McCarthy.

Highlights from the 2014 golf course financial report include:

• The county sold more than $1 million in Chambers Bay merchandise, up from $700,000 in 2013.

• The course earned $1.9 million from food and beverage sales, up from $1.6 million in 2013.

• Average green fees hit $109, up from the previous high of $91 in 2008.

Revenue climbed even though playing time was reduced to groom the course for the weeklong USGA tournament set for mid-June.

Chambers Bay attracted more than 3,200 out-of-state golfers last year, and they paid roughly double the greens fees that local residents pay to play the course.

Out-of-state visitors helped drive revenue from green and cart fees to $3.6 million, up from $3.4 million in 2013. Those dollars climbed even though 33,347 rounds of golf were played last year, down from 38,980 in 2013.

McCarthy anticipates that trend will continue after the major championship, when a national audience will get a look at the links being played by famous golfers such as Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and newly anointed Masters Tournament champion Jordan Spieth.

“There’s going to be an afterglow after the Open,” she said. “There’s going to be a heightened interest to take a plane and come to this part of the country and golf an American-style Scottish course.”

The county borrowed $20.7 million in 2005 to build the links-style course on the site of a former gravel mine. Today, it owes $17.5 million on those original bonds, which is to be paid off over about 20 years.

Before 2013, the golf course hadn’t broken even since its 2008 peak. It even lost money in 2010, when it attracted national exposure by playing host to the U.S. Amateur.