When completed in about 14 months, Kent’s new YMCA on East Hill promises to emerge as a community gem for all things possible.
So say city leaders, Y representatives and other influential people responsible for pulling the project together. The collaborative effort, a vision first seen more than 20 years ago, has come to fruition, now that the first, massive earth-moving machines from Abbott Construction have stirred the landscape.
Work has begun on the new 50,000 square-foot, state-of-the art facility at expanded Morrill Meadows Park, at 10600 SE 248th St. The new Y is expected to open on Labor Day weekend next year, said Katie O’Sullivan, board chair for the YMCA of Greater Seattle.
“And within a few months of the opening, we estimate 15,000 new members will be involved in this Y, more than half of them children,” O’Sullivan told the crowd assembled for a sun-splashed groundbreaking ceremony at the park last Saturday.
All told, the YMCA anticipates serving 22,000 people per year.
Nathan Phillips, regional vice president for the YMCA of Greater Seattle, said the new Y will provide opportunities for residents and engage and bring a diverse community closer together.
“Kent is a city of tremendous potential,” said. “There are over 125,000 residents and more than one in four of them are under the age of 18. It has too few places where people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds can come together to be active and healthy, educated and inspired by one another. The new Y will be one of those places for Kent.”
The YMCA of Greater Seattle is raising more than $27 million to build the facility, with the city contributing about $10 million. The new Y will offer community gathering spaces; an aquatic center with lap lanes and swim areas; gym, group fitness and cardio spaces. The indoor facilities are complimented by outdoor recreation in the expanded park.
“This has been a project we have been wanting since at least the ’90s,” said City Councilwoman Brenda Fincher. “It was a matter of equity, a matter of being able to spread out our recreational activities, so that people who do not live near Kent Commons would have another place that they could go. …
“This is a place we’ve been wanting for a long, long time.”
Bob Gilbertson, CEO and president of the YMCA of Greater Seattle, called the project historical, a milestone in that the Y, city staff and other partners strongly supported the plan and carefully followed through in its financial and physical design, however daunting the challenge might have been.
“Philanthropy is a big deal to the YMCA and for the city of Kent,” Gilbertson said. “I can say this truthfully: this is the largest, nondenominational fundraising (effort) that’s taken place in the city of Kent in its history.”
Gilbertson said he has received phone calls from other cities throughout the country on how to established and develop such a project.
“It’s an unusual partnership, not something that’s been done anywhere,” Mayor Dana Ralph said of the joint work. “Other Y’s, other cities are starting to ask questions. That means we did … something exciting to make this project happen.”
Ralph said the genuine value of a multi-purpose Y in Kent goes far beyond its large price tag to build.
“The Kent Y will join the city in providing important services to our community such as fitness and community wellness programs, family support and foster care, mental health, substance abuse counseling, gang prevention and much more,” she said. “Kent residents will have greater access to those services to help all of our people reach their fullest potential.
“It will enhance recreational opportunities to directly improve the overall health and wellness of the Kent community, addressing tough challenges like poor nutrition, hunger, obesity and lack of physical activity.”
The community soon will have another go-to place to recreate, learn and grow. The new Y will expand school, child care and enrichment programs for youth.
Added City Councilwoman Satwinder Kaur: “It’s a place where communities come together. … The kitchen and meeting space will benefit the community, including the refugee immigrant communities. … They can come together, cook together and learn about each other.”
The city will pay for an estimated $6.5 million of improvements and changes at Morrill Meadows Park as it merges with nearby East Hill Park – including an enhanced 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.
For more information on the new Y, visit seattleymca.org/new-kent-ymca.
For more information about the Morrill Meadows Park expansion, visit kentwa.gov.
– Staff writer Steve Hunter contributed to this report.