When a new YMCA opens in the next couple of years on Kent’s East Hill, residents are expected to see numerous community benefits.
The Kent City Council approved a project agreement on Tuesday night for the $24.5 million facility. The YMCA of Greater Seattle hopes to start construction in May at city park property near Southeast 248th Street and 104th Avenue Southeast. If all goes as planned, the facility could open in 2019.
“This is an excellent project – it’s going to be a landmark for the city,” said Council President Bill Boyce at the Operations Committee meeting on Dec. 5.”It reminds me of what we did for Kent Station and the ShoWare Center. It puts us on the map. For a city as large as us, we definitely should have a YMCA.”
The benefits for Kent include creating about 150 jobs, from entry-level part-time positions to full-time executive and management jobs, according to city documents. The nonprofit facility will serve about 11,000 members and another 11,000 through outreach services such as health and wellness, counseling, education, case management, child care and sports programs.
“Services are a big part of it,” said Councilwoman Dana Ralph, who takes over as mayor in January. “You think about the pool and gym but the rest is pretty significant services we know our city is in need of.”
The 50,000-square-foot facility will contain a gym, community meeting rooms and a six-lane, 25-yard pool. The YMCA agreed to build a larger pool than it has at other similar-sized facilities so it can absorb the uses of the aging Kent Meridian Pool, which will be closed and most likely demolished after the YMCA opens.
The high school swim teams from Kentwood and Kent-Meridian will be allowed to rent pool time from the YMCA, which also will spend about $14,000 per year to provide swim lessons to local children, including those from families who cannot afford to pay for lessons.
“We will host at least two free community swims each month,” said Nathan Phillips, regional vice president for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. ”The community meeting rooms will be open for access to city programs and the restrooms in the lobby will be available for park users for when the Y is open.”
Each year, the YMCA will spend about $100,000 to distribute free passes for people to try out the facility.
The city will pay for an estimated $6.5 million of improvements and changes at Morrill Meadows Park and the nearby East Hill Park (including a new dog park) as well as a new 250-spot parking lot. The city also will pay about $2 million for frontage improvements along Southeast 248th Street – a three-lane road, new sidewalks and bike lanes and moving the overhead utilities underground.
Kent will spend another $1.5 million to buy replacement park property for the land lost due to the new YMCA. The park property had restrictions because portions of the land were acquired with grant funds through the state Recreation and Conservation Office and funds through King County’s 1989 open space bonds.
“I marvel at how big the space is and how beautiful it will be for the city – and it’s in a great location,” Councilman Les Thomas said.
City officials wanted to build the city’s own pool. But plans for a new facility on the Naden Avenue property were dropped because of the high costs and a lack of funds, so city staff began to look for a partner and started talking to YMCA officials in 2010.
The YMCA of Greater Seattle operates 12 facilities in the area, including Auburn and SeaTac.
“This community deserves this,” Ralph said. “We are one of the only communities around that doesn’t have this access.”