Business

County likes taste of sandwich shop at aquatic center

The Mirror

King County, which is surveying the public for ideas for its parks system, hopes folks like one of the latest initiatives of its own: A private business operating at Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

A Subway sandwich shop opened Wednesday at the countyoperated pool in Federal Way. Officials called it the latest response to County Executive Ron Sims’ request for a “new way of doing business” in parks and recreation.

Suzanne Little, director of parks, noted that for the past three years, the county has sought new concessions, sponsorship agreements and events to generate revenue to help fund the system. The aquatic center Subway venture joins the US Bank-sponsored concerts at Marymoor Park, the sale of naming rights to the park’s Group Health Velodrome and the Cougar Mountain Trail Running Series.

Little said the new Subway franchise is a “significant revenue source” as a tenant at the aquatic center. It also “provides a needed amenity” for pool users and visitors and ties the system in with “a nationally branded corporate partner.”

Franchise owner-operator Rahim Karmali, who has two other Subway franchises in downtown Seattle’s Washington State Convention Center and a third in Federal Way’s Twin Lakes area, said the aquatic center’s approximately 500,000 visitors annually give his new store a “built-in clientele.”

The shop’s presence will make the facility, which has hosted several Olympic-caliber swimming events, a stronger competitor for future events, said Mike Dunwiddie, the aquatic center manager.

“We have state, regional, national and international competitions throughout the year,” he said. “A criteria for hosting many of these events is to have full-service concessions on site.”

Parks officials and Subway are planning several grand-opening events during the first quarter of 2005.

From a business perspective, Karmali said he is providing his own incentive program by giving away a free cookie with each sandwich purchase through Jan. 1.

The Subway connection may not stop at the aquatic center. Officials said the county and Subway are in final negotiations for a restaurant in Marymoor Park and are researching additional locations and opportunities.

Meanwhile, county officials are asking the public in an on-line survey for ideas for new activities or services in parks and what improvements they’d like to see there.

The second annual survey allows park visitors to help improve service and meet public needs, officials said.

For example, they said, last year a general call for improved playfields helped lead to a $4 million budget allocation for field resurfacing at Marymoor Park.

The demographic information provided through the survey also helped the county ink sponsorship deals with major area companies. And survey respondents provided suggestions for future entrepreneurial projects to help generate revenue for park upkeep and improvements.

The new survey, which officials said takes a few minutes to complete, is at http://dnr.metrokc.gov/parks/survey.

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