Opinion

Third places enrich quality of life in Federal Way | Hobbs

The closure of Bally Total Fitness marks the end of a quintessential Federal Way “third place.”

That term describes the place where you socialize outside of home (first place) and work (second place). A third place can be anything from a coffee shop to a church to a library — any place that expands your social, cultural or intellectual horizons.

Among tennis players, Bally was the backdrop for some social relationships that run 30 years deep. Bally provided a physical structure for like minds to mingle. The building was home base for the local tennis lifestyle. Hundreds of Federal Way folks found their heaven on earth.

LA Fitness recently acquired 171 Bally locations nationwide and closed the Federal Way branch Dec. 8. Business is business, they acknowledged, shrugging their shoulders. There is talk of forming a group to operate the facilities independently from LA Fitness, but nothing’s official. It may be time for a new house, but at least they know how to make a home.

Third places like Bally are a key component to raising Federal Way’s quality of life. The facility was an all-ages link. Friends and families invested a lot of time at the tennis courts.

What started as playing tennis together eventually led to weekly breakfasts and lunches after the matches. For the players who competed in U.S. Tennis Association matches, Bally represented a place to fuel their sense of self-satisfaction. After all, it feels damn good to win.

With all these physical and emotional investments, Bally patrons formed a deep attachment. They will find another place to play indoor tennis, but the closure is a shame. The parking lot at Bally was always full. Now there’s another empty building.

The best bet is for a private enterprise to re-open the tennis facility. Bring back this local third place means bringing back something that helped people enjoy life in Federal Way. That’s a key part in raising quality of life. The more residents like living here, the more time, money and energy they will invest in the city.

What role can Federal Way residents play in raising the quality of life? Recruit more third places and reasons to care about the community. The city’s leaders — from elected to grass-roots and everyone in between — must organize local ingenuity.

In other words, get like-minded people together to share ideas. Every topic is on the table. Let the best ideas rise to the top. Come to these gatherings armed not with answers, but with questions. Progress depends on the questions people ask.

How are third places linked to quality of life? Because they foster attachments among people and encourage them to stay and play, right here in Federal Way.

What’s the secret to strengthening third places in Federal Way? Thank you for asking …

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