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City set to raise funds for $9.7 M community center

SNOQUALMIE - The time for discussion is over.

The city of Snoqualmie is ready to begin raising money for a proposed $9.7 million indoor pool and community center, years after plans for constructing a facility were initially created.

However, this incarnation differs from previous proposals. When the Community Center Committee submitted its recommendation in 1999, it supported building a 25,000-square-foot facility that included an 8,800-square-foot gymnasium, a weight and cardiovascular room, a large meeting hall, as well as a full kitchen and classrooms.

Since then local residents have expressed dismay that a pool wasn't part of the community center plan, which had been ruled out because of its costs.

But this fall, city staff announced that they had been working with the project's architects, ARC Architects of Seattle, to design a community center proposal that housed a pool. Those initial designs were unveiled to City Council members at their meeting Dec. 3.

Tom Armour, who is on the city's Community Center Fund-raising Committee, said the most recent design of the center meets the needs and wants of all residents.

"I think it's a win-win, certainly for the community as a whole," he said.

Armour, who sells houses on Snoqualmie Ridge for Windemere, has been involved with the community center proposal since 1998.

"From the very first meeting, the majority of people had an interest in the [pool]," he said. "There's definitely been both a public and private outcry for the aquatics to be connected to the community center."

Having a pool and community center would also bring together older and newer residents of Snoqualmie, said Armour.

"It is a unifying body between the historic town of Snoqualmie and the newer residents within Snoqualmie Ridge, and an opportunity to celebrate local events together as one city and one town," he said.

Stan Lokting, an architect with ARC, said the design of the community center would allow people to look in on the activities going on inside, as well as offering those in the facility a view of Mount Si.

"Everything we've heard is real positive," he said of the new design for the community center. "I really do think it fits the site well."

The community center would be located near the intersection of Center Boulevard and Southeast Ridge Street, next to Meadow Park, several tennis courts and the site of a future elementary school. To the west of community center lies a proposed amphitheater.

The community center itself is divided into three sections. On the east end of the building is the gymnasium that can be used for full-court basketball, volleyball and other sports and activities.

The middle section contains a meeting hall that could be divided for two smaller events. There is also a classroom, an arts and crafts room, lockers, the weight and aerobic rooms, a room for drop-in day care, a kitchen, a party/meeting room and the reception area.

The pool is on the west side of the building. It starts with a "zero beach" area, where the water is even with the deck, and gradually gets deeper. The pool then bends around, almost like a "U," and connects with six lap lanes.

The pool's lanes would allow swimming teams from the Snoqualmie Valley School District to practice there, but the facility would not have the necessary equipment to host meets.

Estimated costs for building the facility - including contingencies - are $7.6 million. Soft costs, such as state sales tax, permits, tests and other fees, are expected to reach $2.1 million, for a total project cost of $9.7 million.

Using its original proposal for the community center and a similar study for the South Whidbey Recreation Center, which it designed, ARC estimated that the community center and pool would have $805,000 a year in expenditures for maintenance and operations and $538,000 in revenues, for a deficit of $267,000.

Lokting said the difference could be made up through a partnership with the school district, the Salish Lodge and Spa's proposed convention hotel or groups like the YMCA and the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Hub.

"The more people we can have come in and help us operate the facility, the lower the operational costs will be," said Parks Director Jeff Mumma.

The City Council has approved $28,004 in fees for ARC, which had been working without a contract on the center. Those fees will be paid for out of the city's real estate excise taxes.

Council members have also agreed to hire James G. Fletcher Associates Inc. of Issaquah to serve as consultants to the fund-raising campaign, at a cost of $82,100. That money, along with $50,000 to pay for a city fund-raising administrator, would come out of the $750,000 mitigation agreement between Snoqualmie and Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co. to build a community center.

Fletcher said he believes he can raise $1.8-$1.9 million to help offset the cost of the community center in less than a year. He added that the campaign would solicit the largest donations from contributors first, then work its way down to smaller contributions. And unlike other fund-raising campaigns he's worked on, Fletcher said this one would be relatively short.

"You've got a small community with a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "People are ready for this kind of package and this kind of product."

He added that any bond levy should come immediately following the fund-raising campaign, capitalizing on its momentum.

"The private-sector fund-raising effort should lead the bond and would carry over to the bond," Fletcher said.

Armour believes residents will be willing to tax themselves for the pool and community center.

"This is a very, very highly supported project," he said. "People are absolutely willing to pay for it.

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