Loria Yeadon studied the mid-September sky as she held the microphone in front of a festive crowd.
Not even a sunless, rain-sprinkled Saturday morning could spoil this special occasion.
“It’s a great day in Kent. It’s a great day in the lives of the YMCA,” she told the colorful gathering on the plaza in front of the new, multi-purpose Y on East Hill, at 10828 SE 248th St., next to Morrill Meadows Park.
“(Let’s) transform this physical space into a community place,” said the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Seattle. “Lives will be changed, families will thrive, neighborhoods will unite as a village and young people will reach their full potential in mind, body and spirit.”
The Y, she emphasized, is a place that embraces all.
Yeadon was among the project leaders and major players who spoke at the grand-opening celebration of Kent’s $36.6 million Y – a two-story, 50,000-square-foot facility. The center was built specifically to the changing needs of a growing, diverse community. The project, first visualized 10 years ago, was realized through a collaborative effort by the Y, the city of Kent and many corporate and community partnerships.
The city of Kent put in about $11 million toward the project. State grants, major donors and community contributors paid for the rest of the project, with about a $1 million left to raise to completely cover the bill, Y officials said.
The center, an Abbott Construction build that spanned nearly 14 months, officially opened its doors at 10:30 a.m. to a steady flow of families and members. Kent, the 14th branch in the YMCA of Greater Seattle lineup and the third in South King County, anticipates serving an estimated 8,000 members, with more than half being children, in the first three months, said Kelly Guy, the Kent Y’s executive director.
“My hope today is that the Kent Y will be the link that brings all of us together, that brings the different communities, the different cultures and our different generations together,” Guy told the opening day crowd. “(The Y is) where we are engaged with one another … to exercise our bodies and our minds and to learn together.
“The Kent Y will be a place where everyone can come to just be themselves,” Guy added, “to focus and improve on their health and well-being and to meet new community members and residents.”
It’s a place where Bill Boyce, Kent City Council president, plans to take on a personal challenge.
“I’ve tried for so many years to swim,” he told the crowd, “but I’m going to learn how to swim (here).”
Boyce took time to thank those responsible for making the Y possible.
“This is a historic moment,” said Boyce, who spoke at the celebration on behalf of the city and Mayor Dana Ralph, who was unable to attend. “As a longtime resident of Kent I am so excited to see this project come together … out of so many years of hard work and planning.”
Yeadon said the Kent Y is unique in that it is designed and focused on making its staff and programming grow and evolve to reflect the needs of the communities they serve.
According to King County economic studies forecasts, Kent and the region will grow racially and ethnically diverse, with more residents born in other countries.
Open seven days a week, the Kent Y will offer community gathering spaces, an aquatic center, gym, three group fitness studios, a walking-running track, and a large, premium cardio and free-weights fitness area.
Two pools – a 25 six-lane, 25-meter-long pool and a pool designed for family activity, play and leisure – are expected to open Monday or Tuesday, having passed inspection by Public Health – Seattle and King County.
The Y will bring expanded school-aged childcare and enrichment programs for children and youth. It also will provide mental health and counseling services.
Given the Y stands next to an expanded park, city and Y staff will look to develop and offer outdoor activities and other program opportunities.
“There’s lots of space around us,” Yeadon said, “which we are excited to work with the city of Kent to activate, to help people become healthier.”
Kent’s Y will bring more jobs and volunteer opportunities to the East Hill community. More than 100 people will be needed to run the new Y, including lifeguards, swim instructors, childcare workers and membership staff.
Memberships will have options. The YMCA will offer scholarships to those who cannot afford memberships or program participation.
“We never turn away someone due to their background, culture or financial situation,” Yeadon said.
Learn more at seattleymca.org.