VRA says pool or bust in Lower Valley

CARNATION — If you were one of the 300 residents from

Carnation, Fall City or Duvall who received a phone call about the possibility

of building a pool in the community, be assured that the data was used for

legitimate purposes.

The Valley Recreation Association (VRA) directed Hebert Research

Inc. to determine the feasibility of constructing a recreation center/pool

in the Lower Valley through a marketing study.

According to the survey, more than half of the respondents were

interested in having a pool, basketball court, exercise room, meeting space and

weight room in their community.

"That's a plus in my book," said VRA President Jeff Spencer. "I

am quite pleased with the response."

"I imagine that it was about five to 10 minutes [for the call] and

people were willing to be interrupted and answer these questions," he added.

The VRA and its predecessor, the Eastman-Rush Memorial

Foundation, have been working for more than 20 years to provide a safe place for

local children to swim. But after years of trying and still no pool, the VRA

decided to make one last push for the project before it ended its

decades-long effort.

Last September, a group of business leaders, school officials and

community members met to discuss what type of facility the community

would be interested in bringing to the Valley.

Then the VRA commissioned a $7,000 marketing study to

determine how much money the center could receive from membership fees, the

cost of operating a facility and what types of services were most desirable.

The study revealed that it would cost between $700,000 to $900,000

a year to run an adequate recreation center for the community. However,

only about $600,000 to $800,000 would be collected through yearly user fees.

"Twenty thousand dollars a month [deficit] is a lot of money," said

Penny Zeller, a VRA board member. "I don't want to do this with fund raising

all the time."

The VRA board will use the next several months to find additional

revenue sources that could at least help cover the costs of running the

facility. Several possibilities include renting the space to swim teams,

partnering with the school district or seeking monetary assistance from

government agencies.

"We are part of a large county with a large county budget," said

Barb McKenzie, a community member interested in the pool. "Somehow

there ought to be a larger number of public funds to tap into."

Al Dams, a spokesman for King County Parks and Recreation, said

his department does give out some funds and grants for

community-planned facilities.

"Sometimes we partner with other agencies on projects," he said. "If

the Eastman-Rush Foundation got close to building a pool, they are

welcome to approach us."

The county currently has several other pools in the area including

Si View in North Bend and Cottage Lake in Woodinville. But it might be

awhile before the county takes steps toward building a center in the

Carnation, Duvall or Fall City communities, Dams said.

"There are no concrete plans to construct a pool in the Lower

Valley, but there are discussions about what role King County will play in the

swim business in the future," he said.

If the VRA is able to solve its potential money problems, they will

start the fund-raising process to pay for the construction of the $4- to

$8-million center. But if the money can't be secured, the VRA concedes that

they will probably disband in May and pass along the $25,000 they have

collected to another agency.

"I won't say no until I find out if we can raise that money,"

Spencer said. "I'm not willing to say,

`That's it' until we have to say that's it."

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