CORRECTION: The print edition of this article stated both community center options considered by the Enumclaw city council had gym space — one a high school-sized gym, and the other an elementary school-sized gym. This is incorrect: the second option only considered room for a small exercise room, not a larger gym. This online article has been updated, and a correction will be printed in the 8/10 edition.
There’s still a lot to plan and schedule, but the Enumclaw City Council has taken another step in solidifying a plan to build a new community center in the downtown area.
After a spirited discussion during the July 25 meeting, the city council voted 5-2 to move forward with designing a facility to house four organizations — the Senior Center, the Chamber of Commerce, Arts Alive!, and the Enumclaw’s Parks and Recreation department — and a high school-sized indoor gym.
Council members Chance la Fleur, Corrie Koopmann Frazier, Tom Sauvageau, Beau Chevassus, and Anthony Wright voted to approve designing the center with those specification in mind; Council members Bobby Martinez and Chris Gruner voted against the design (the two said they preferred a design with no gym, but wanted both designs to be drawn up by Cornerstone Architectural Group).
This is only a preliminary design, and changes may — or are even likely — to occur. But as it stands, the entire footprint of the building (indoor and out) is expected to be close to 59,000 square feet, and construction (which includes permits, impact fees, and engineering) is estimated at more than $14 million.
Enumclaw definitely doesn’t have that kind of dough on hand, so it’s clear that the only way to pay for such a project would be through a voter-approved bond, which means securing a 60 percent (supermajority) approval rate.
Mayor Jan Molinaro noted during the meeting that a bond measure could find its way onto the April 2023 special election ballot “at the earliest”.
How much a bond would affect your wallet depends on the actual construction costs, whether the bond is for 20 or 30 years, and whether the city is able to secure any grants to lessen the pressure on taxpayers.
Assuming the $14 million cost estimate is accurate, a 20-year bond would add 35 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value levy rate to current property taxes. This would increase the average property tax bill (for someone with $420,000 in property) by about $147.
If the city goes for a 30-year bond, the levy rate is estimated to be 26 cents, with an average annual increase of nearly $110.
Next steps obviously require a finished preliminary design and additional input from the potential community center occupants.
The council discussed the need to get wider community input on what locals would like to see at their community center, but it’s unclear how gathering that information will be done; it was noted that the most successful survey the city has recently circulated was about the Bark Park, built in 2018, but only about 1,000 people responded – less than 10 percent of the city’s population at that time.
GO BIG, OR GO HOME
According to the city, a design ad hoc committee (consisting of Chevassus, Wright, and Gruner, plus city staff) considered four community center options, but only the options that housed the Senior Center, Chamber, Arts Alive!, and Parks and Rec were presented to the full council.
Wright said that was because any smaller options “significantly impacted” the community center’s four stakeholders and could negatively affect voter attitudes when it came time to pass a bond.
So all that was left to really discuss was whether or not to include a high school-sized gym (7,367 square feet), or just a small exercise room (600 square feet).
“I think we should go all out and be as inclusive as possible to get the most votes as possible for the community to buy in,” said Koopman Frazier, noting she would prefer to see a gym at the community center. “I would only want to do this if we were going to go for everything, and then we let the voters decide.”
Several council members said the need for a place local youth can go to for various activities has been a need Enumclaw has desperately lacked for years.
“This is my 11th year on council, and this has been a topic that pre-dates me by probably 15 years, and a constant point of concern I hear from people is, ‘we need a community center, we need a place where a teenager to play basketball or racketball,’” said la Fleur. “Especially having a young kid myself, there is no place in Enumclaw to go indoors with a 0 to 6 year old and get out of the house for a while.”
While Martinez agreed that there are few places for youth to go for activities — he would know, having grown up here, he said — but he believes a large gym just won’t be utilized.
“I just don’t see any kind of guarantee or data to back up the stance that this will be heavily used by our youth,” he continued. “I know everyone wants something for them to do, but I don’t know if a gymnasium is that answer… I don’t know if going out for $16 million to our voters is going to remedy the question that everyone is asking — ‘what are we going to do with all these kids?’”
Gruner added the council also needs to consider the present economy and the tax burden locals are already under and various tax increase proposals coming in the future, which include the Enumclaw Fire Department’s levy lid lift measure residents voted on Aug. 2 and a Enumclaw School District bond measure that will be placed on the February 2023 special election ballot.
“We want to make sure we have something that works for the community, but also doesn’t impact people that are struggling,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us not to just look at what people wanted, because everybody’s going to want everything, right? The difference now is, what are the financial constraints, and that’s where our job, I think, gets hard, and we’ll have to really seriously consider those things, and being able to say ‘yes’ to something that might not be 100 percent of what we want.”
City documents show the smaller gym option would reduce the total community center size to just about 50,000 square feet and would shrink the cost to about $9.6 million. It’s unclear what sort of effect a project of that size would have on local property taxes, as the smallest bond estimate given to the city was for $12 million.
Molinaro said that even though the country may still be in an economic downturn by next spring, and that “I’m sensitive to the voters and the economic plight of several people in our community, I do think we need to look beyond this current economic situation, because is a building that will be here beyond many of us… this is a long-term investment.”
PROGRAMING AND REVENUE
With a high school-sized gym, the city’s Parks and Rec department sees a major expansion in the programing it can offer the Enumclaw community.
Currently, the city offers one season of youth basketball, three seasons of men’s basketball, two seasons of youth volleyball, and three seasons of adult volleyball. All together, this brings in about $39,000 into the city’s coffers annually — though you have to figure in the $12,000 it costs the city every year to rent school space for those activities.
A city-owned gym could more than triple net revenue just by adding several more seasons of youth and adult sports, and additional revenue could be made through renting out the facility to school sports teams, pickleball groups, homeschool organizations for physical education, and pee-wee soccer practice, according to estimates attached to the community center documents given to the council.
“I think it would definitely be possible to offer those programs 2 or 3 more times throughout the year and they would be successful,” Parks and Rec Director Michelle Larson said in an email interview, after print deadline. “Otherwise, there are multiple other programs we could offer. Being creative with programming will be key to ensure a good revenue stream and making sure that gym gets used.”