Indoor recreation center in the cards

Anyone got an extra five acres to spare? Or a few million you'd care to donate to a worthy cause?

If so, the city would like to hear from you.

According to a 2001 survey and goals in an existing comprehensive plan, Kirkland residents have made it clear that they would like an all-inclusive, indoor community recreation center - complete with fitness studios, gyms, kitchen, art, preschool and the biggie: aquatics.

The looming issues: price tag (anywhere in the range of $25-$35 million) and space (anywhere from five to eight acres).

Maxed out

"We realized that we have limited indoor active recreation space," said Carrie Hite, deputy director for Kirkland parks and community services. "The space we have - North Kirkland Community Center and Peter Kirk Community Center - is maxed out." As is rented school space.

An indoor rec center has been part of the city's comprehensive plan for the past seven or eight years, according to Hite. The community survey done in 2001 was to prepare for a park bond and recreation space. "It came back very favorably," Hite said. However, the city felt that given the struggling economy at the time, it wouldn't be a good idea to put up a $15-20 million bond to build a rec center.

Instead, the city did propose and pass a bond in 2002 for $8 million that enhanced parks: Juanita Beach, the watershed and the city/school partnership (in which the Lake Washington School District rents fields and gyms for youth and adult programs).

Rubbing salt in the wound is the cost factor. The longer we wait, the higher the price tag gets. To the tune of about 10 percent a year.

Obesity a driving issue

Hite said that the city's efforts to propel this project is not only cost-driven, but health-driven. "One of the issues that has sped us up," she said, "is obesity - youth, adults, seniors. There's a huge initiative at the national level, called Step Up to Health [which the city inaugurated last year]. Our goal is to increase activity and to better nutrition."

So what's the next step?

On Sept. 12, the city hosted a public workshop for feedback. Another one is scheduled Oct. 18 (7-9 p.m. at the Peter Kirk Community Center) where residents are encouraged to bring opinions, ideas and input. Results of both meetings will be taken to the park board in November and then to city council in January for approval.

"We want to know what the public wants in an indoor rec space," Hite said. "We don't have the money or the site now. In order to find a partner, we need to say, 'This is what the community really wants and what it will cost. Geographically ... what makes sense.'"

Community partners needed

The city literally is looking for community partners, either to help defray capital costs and or assist with obtaining a site. Possible partnerships include Evergreen Healthcare, Lake Washington School District, Lake Washington Technical College and the Northwest University.

Some have questioned the possibility of including the center in the new Juanita Beach development, but the master plan is already complete and didn't include an indoor rec center. "That doesn't mean that down the line we can't look at it," Hite said.

The city already has employed the services of Opsis Architecture, in association with the Sports Management Group. This team is no stranger to these projects, having just completed the Firstenburg Center in Vancouver, Wash. The project, which took eight years from beginning to end, was truly a community effort. In addition to a multi-million dollar donation from the Firstenburg family, Hite said, the city also got state grants, donations from other partners and a room full of Nautilus equipment donated by the manufacturer.

According to Hite, Federal Way is slated to open an indoor rec center in December.

"Most likely, we will have to put together a bond," Hite said. "It's a big puzzle - but not impossible."

Rec center community workshop

Oct. 18, 7-9 p.m.

Peter Kirk Community Center (formerly Kirkland Senior Center), 352 Kirkland Ave.

All are welcome.

Information: Carrie Hite, deputy director for parks and community services, 587-3320.

Web site: Click on indoor recreation facility.[[In-content Ad]]