News

Council approves $20 million community center

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

A rough sketch of a community center, senior center and swimming pool for Federal Way is beginning to emerge after months of City Council, staff and community advisory group planning, brainstorming and deliberation.

Last Tuesday, council members gave the go-ahead to begin drawing up design proposals for a 77,540-square-foot center. The complex –– to include a six-lane lap pool, a large leisure pool, three gyms, a fitness area, climbing wall, café and juice bar, several classroom spaces, a senior lounge, a games alcove and a large community-events room –– is slated for construction in Celebration Park in 2005.

All told, the project is expected to cost about $20 million –– $17.7 million to build the center, $1 million for the access road and a 10 percent project contingency.

The 1 percent utility tax passed by the council last year will generate $1.25 million, $1 million of which will be used to provide the revenue source for a $15 million bond for construction. The remaining $250,000 will be used for operations, officials said.

Tuesday night, the council approved allocating existing arterial street overlay funding to pay for the access road.

To fill the remaining $1.7 million funding gap, council members agreed to use 2003 real estate excise tax revenue, which was higher than anticipated this year and can be used only for capital projects, supplemented with money from the general fund contingency reserve that city finance officials don’t anticipate needing.

During a community center update prior to the meeting Tuesday, council members worked over a rough outline of programs and amenities they want in the center. They also got an idea of fees to charge residents and non-residents for passes, drop-in use and room rentals.

Council members deliberated over the fitness aspect of the center following an Aug. 29 proposal from Bally’s Total Fitness for the city to buy its First Way location to use for the community center.

While city officials didn’t think the Bally’s space would be suitable for the scope of project the city is undertaking, several members expressed concern a fitness element to the center might compete with Federal Way’s existing clubs.

Still, most didn’t think the center would compete with the private fitness centers in Federal Way.

Councilman Jack Dovey said he was envisioning more of a generalized health center, not a place where accomplished weightlifters would pump iron. He added he wouldn’t want to compete with local clubs that provide that amenity to serious weightlifters.

Parks director Jennifer Shroder said she doesn’t foresee the fitness component competing dramatically with local fitness clubs.

“Our interest is not to put them out of business,” she said. “It’s to be a compatible piece of the community market.”

Council members also agreed to leave the door open for future deals — from private fitness centers or otherwise.

When city officials and consultants brought back the higher figures last month, several council members were surprised at the increase in cost. Many now want to keep the cost as low as possible without sacrificing the amenities they believe would draw residents, like the leisure pool area with water slides, the larger community room and three gyms.

Councilman Dean McColgan said he was hesitant to add a third gym if it was going to drive the cost of the project up. But others said they wanted the third gym even more than other amenities they’ve discussed.

Dovey said if the gyms are available for teens to drop in after school, youngsters might be less inclined to get in trouble.

“That’s a subsidy I’d fight for more than 300 square feet for exercise,” he said.

Shroder added the third gym could have a variety of flooring options that could accommodate martial arts, roller hockey or large aerobics classes.

Councilwoman Linda Kochmar said the council might be second-guessed for its decisions, but in the end, many people will be able to use the center they’re envisioning.

“We’re not building one building,” she said. “We’re building a multitude of buildings in one building.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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