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It's showtime at last for new Snoqualmie Community Center, Valley YMCA | Photo Gallery
Shoes have been kicked off and board games are on the table on this lazy January afternoon.
The trio of teens, Cali Rose, Ellie Miller and Allie Murphy, laugh as they play “Buzzword," then switch to “Apples to Apples.”
“That one made me think too much,” said Miller, who’d rather just hang out.
The atmosphere is relaxed, but these girls aren’t at home. They’re regulars at the teen center at the Snoqualmie Community Center and Valley YMCA, which quietly opened January 1. A grand opening planned for Saturday, Jan. 21, has been postponed. Instead, the center did duty as a warming shelter over the weekend.
But the storm only postponed the big moment for the center, where teens Rose, Miller and Murphy have been coming since day one, dabbling in games but mostly for each other's company.
“I get bored sometimes at home,” Rose said. Since mom doesn’t like her wandering Snoqualmie, she comes here, where the teens play under the supervision of YMCA teen program director Stacy Holdren.
The teen center is open to any youth in grades 6 to 10, regardless of whether they are Y members. While staffed by the YMCA, the teen area is part of the Snoqualmie Community Center, one of several facets where the Y and center blur together.
Breaking the mold
The new Snoqualmie Y breaks the mold in several ways. It’s a joint city-Y venture, reclaiming a YMCA legacy that lasted for decades at the lost community of Snoqualmie Falls. It’s a community center within a Y—that’s why teens like Holdren’s card-playing trio can attend even if they aren’t members.
The boundaries between the Y and the community center are fuzzy, and there’s a reason for that, says Gwen Voelpel, parks director for the city of Snoqualmie.
“It’s been a growing-together process,” Voelpel said. “They’re one and the same.”
“So many words about what a community center means, is what the Y means as well,” said Dave Mayer, the founding director of the Snoqualmie Valley YMCA. “Our job is to create healthy lives. That’s what a community center would be doing, too.”
Boosters say this place will change the Valley by becoming a gathering point, a local hub. The full name of the Y’s local identity is the “Snoqualmie Valley YMCA,” and it’s meant to live up to the name through Valley-spanning activities like the group hiking classes that start in February.
“They’re bigger than just the building,” Voelpel said.
With the city as building owner, the Y is the operator and maintainer of a master schedule, running center-specific programs like a teen center and a community meeting room. Reflecting that, at Snoqualmie, unlike other Ys, there is no gate to halt visitors at the reception desk.
Voelpel says the center is already a community hub. On Friday, Jan. 6, 50 families camped on blankets and sleeping bags to watch a movie on the gym wall. Last Tuesday, 45 teens transformed the gym into a dodgeball battleground. Now, the Y’s after-school programs are converging here.
“When you see families coming together, see families meeting people that they somehow have never met before, it’s already fulfilling that vision… as a centerpiece,” Voelpel said. “I’m interested in seeing how that gives kids avenues to explore and grow.”
Cost and size
The path to a new center has led past three failed votes. The $4 million, 13,000-square-foot center is a trimmed-down version of the vision put before Snoqualmie voters in 2002, 2006 and 2008. Those bond measures, which would have built a bigger center and pool, each time failed to garner a supermajority vote. The city then voted to go it alone, choosing the YMCA as an operating partner and setting aside $950,000 of reserves for construction. Other funding came from the Snoqualmie Tribe, Ridge builders Quadrant, Murray Franklyn and Pulte, the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Development Company, and from Puget Western.
Besides the initial donation, the tribe has made a $100,000 annual commitment from its mitigation and social services fund to pay for operations.
The Y has a goal of 900 membership units—individual, couple and family memberships—for its first year. Snoqualmie Valley YMCA had 418 units on Dec. 31, and about 520 today.
Here they come
Membership representative Bre Fowler had her hands full Tuesday evening, scanning members while touting the facility to newcomers.
“Around 7 o’clock, we get a mad rush,” Fowler said. “It was going out the door. That was the craziest I’ve seen it.”
The most common question she answers: “What are the activities for 9-to-10-year-old kids?”
On Wednesday afternoon, youths and families steadily approach Fowler’s desk. Mount Si High School seniors Sean Ballsmith, Tyler Young and Dustin Dirks walked in to pick up applications. The boys live on the Ridge, and want to lift weights, work out and play basketball in the offseason.
In the next room, Snoqualmie Ridge residents Barry Ferner, who was lifting 25-pound hand weights, and Joel Erne, on the treadmill, both joined for family reasons. They switched gyms from Issaquah and Snoqualmie, respectively, and while both men said they’d prefer to see a bigger facility, they were sold on the variety of options for all ages.
“It’s something for everybody,” Ferner said.
Y programs are fluid right now, but will firm up soon. Mayer points to the comment card at the front desk as a way to fine-tune offerings.
“We’re encouraging as many comments as possible,” he said.
During a tour of the gym, Mayer stopped for a moment to snatch a rolling basketball, then sunk a hoop on his first throw. His second went wide, though.
Self-described as “the busiest guy on the planet, having the time of my life,” Mayer has been balancing the act of getting the community center/Y up and running with face time, leading tours and meeting new members.
“Obviously, there are e-mails to go through, but I’d rather be out, walking around,” he said.
As the last clocks and coathooks go up, the completion of the long-anticipated vision sinks in. Mayer excitedly goes over the plans for the grand opening and beyond—unveiling of a large mobile statue out front, a future fire-warmed plaza outside—and points out the first community group, the Northwest Railway Museum board, now ranged along a table in the community activity room.
“What’s cool is seeing people come into the building, so excited about what they’re seeing,” Mayer said. “Seeing everything the community envisioned…it’s been cool to see that come into reality.”
• You can learn more about the Snoqualmie YMCA online. Valley residents who want to reserve the community room at the center should contact the Snoqualmie branch at (425) 256-3115.
Becky Straka and Megan Worzella assemble exercise bikes in the new Snoqualmie Community Center's gymnasium.
Mount Si High School senior Sean Ballsmith takes an application form from Y employee Annie McCall.
Stacy Holdren, right, leads a round of card games with Cali Rose, Ellie Miller and Allie Murphy in the new Snoqualmie teen center.
Zumba instructor Kirsty Johnson leads fast moves in the gymnasium at the newly opened Snoqualmie Valley YMCA.
Joining for the options offered for his family, Barry Ferner lifts 25-pound hand weights at the Y.