What's in store for outdated Dumas Bay Centre?

Federal Way resident Peter Townsend speaks at a July 27 public meeting regarding the future of Dumas Bay Centre. The meeting was held in a banquet room, overlooking the Puget Sound, at the centre. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Federal Way resident Peter Townsend speaks at a July 27 public meeting regarding the future of Dumas Bay Centre. The meeting was held in a banquet room, overlooking the Puget Sound, at the centre.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Just a few months ago, it seemed Dumas Bay Centre was doomed. Now the city is seeking creative new uses for the revenue-losing facility.

About 30 residents, many of them interested in the arts, attended a public meeting July 27 at Dumas Bay Centre to discuss the future of the aged building. Former city manager Neal Beets had recommended, during the latest budget cycle, that the city close the structure. Each year it requires a large subsidy to maintain, he said. But when the budget was finalized under present interim city manager Brian Wilson, Dumas Bay remained open to the public.

Mayor Jack Dovey told Monday's audience the facility and its surrounding view of the Puget Sound are too beautiful to restrict public access. The facility shares grounds with the Knutzen Family Theatre at 3200 S.W. Dash Point Road.

"It was deemed to be a viable asset to our community," Dovey said. "It's an asset we want to have people use more."

The city is committed to Dumas Bay Centre, he said. The establishment is currently marketed as a meeting place. Rooms are rented. Catering and wedding services are offered. Local non-profits, such as FUSION, hold annual events at the location.

Still, the facility operates at a loss. In 2006, Dumas Bay Centre's operating loss was $29,455. That grew to $43,417 in 2007 and skyrocketed to $91,533 this past year, Dovey said. This year's shortfall is expected to be much less severe than that experienced in 2008, he said.

Dumas Bay Centre's worth to the community outweighs its inability to bring in a steady revenue stream, Dovey said. In order to justify operating the centre, the city needs to find ways for it to spur revenue growth, he said. Dovey asked the audience for suggestions. They willingly contributed their ideas:

• Solicit help from Master Gardeners as a way to save money on landscaping.

• Apply energy efficiency grants and utilize a partnership with Puget Sound Energy to make the centre more economical.

• Charge visitors to use the facility and its lush grounds for arts classes, camping trips or outdoor theater performances.

• Convert the building and land to an elder hostel or senior center.

• Upgrade the centre's rooms and turn a few into wedding suites.

"What we have to do is become very creative of how we administer the use of this building," Dovey said.

Whatever the future uses are, they must comply with city zoning codes and restrictions created by purchase of the property. The conference center was bought in 1995 for $2.75 million, with money coming mostly from bonds, grants and state funding, city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said. Stipulations of the funding used to buy Dumas Bay Centre state it must remain a government operation until 2016. If its use is changed, the city will be obligated to pay back some of the financing, Dovey said.

Additionally, Dumas Bay Centre's uses are severely hampered by its limited and outdated amenities, resident H. David Kaplan said. Kaplan presented a list of ongoing maintenance problems and necessary upgrades. Possibly a new roof, new boiler system, upgraded plumbing and electrical, air conditioning, an elevator, renovated bedrooms and bathrooms inside the guest rooms are just some improvements Dumas Bay Centre requires, Kaplan said.

"(The city's) known we need this ever since we bought the property," he said.

Kaplan asked city staff to begin forming a plan to address these needs. More people will show an interest in renting the facility if it has modern amenities, he said. Arts commissioner Bette Simpson suggested using money set aside to purchase Camp Kilworth to instead renovate Dumas Bay Centre.

"There's a lot of things that should have been done, that need to be done," Simpson said.

A 2008 report prepared by Johnson Consulting showed Dumas Bay Centre has little assessed worth as it stands now. The consultants estimated it would cost $3.15 million to renovate the building. Renovations would trigger requirements to meet safety regulations, such as wider doors, more wheelchair accessibility and a sprinkler system, Dovey said. He said the city has no set timeline for creating more uses for the centre.

"We do think we have a jewel here," interim city manager Brian Wilson said.

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