When imagining the future of Bonney Lake, Mayor Neil Johnson sees a YMCA complex at the hub of it all. Not only are the values of the YMCA conducive to Bonney Lake’s vision of a connected, family-oriented community, but they also provide an expectation of service that the city alone cannot afford.
“Government can do some things right, but it cannot run a business or a recreation center efficiently,” said Johnson. “What I don’t feel comfortable with is the question of whether or not the city could manage a full-fledged community center without getting political. The Y is a preferred alternative to what we need.”
At the , the Bonney Lake City Council unanimously agreed to move forward with plans for a YMCA, preferably on the parcel of land currently known as the WSU Forest. To date, the city has set aside $1 million for a future facility and is considering putting an $8 million bond to voters as early as next year.
The council wants to push up the groundbreaking date of 2018 and move forward with talks of putting a bond to voters next year, even after the Park Board argued that a city-run community center would suit Bonney Lake’s needs the best.
“The Board went out individually and as a group and toured facility centers around the area. We unanimously decided that our recommendation to the council is a city-run community center,” said Park Board director Darren Proctor. “A community center is a gathering place, the fabric of a community. What we've found with the YMCA is that its services are completely driven by membership.”
Proctor argued that the special needs and low-income communities would be at a disadvantage if a YMCA comes to town; while the YMCA promises to subsidize the costs of a percentage of its membership, it is never completely free, therefore not meeting the needs of the whole community.
“We don’t have the budget for social programs. There are different solutions to those concerns,” countered Johnson. Other council members agreed, saying that future parks projects could mitigate that need.
“The Sumner School [District] can’t even keep their swimming pool going. I don’t want to go down that road, knowing in 20 years it could be abandoned,” said councilmember Jim Rackley.
YMCA representative Michelle LaRue gave a presentation at the retreat. She said that in 2008, the YMCA conducted a marketing survey for the East Pierce region and found a huge demand for a facility in the area – they’ve estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 people would sign up as members. The YMCA is also planning to open a facility in Sumner in the proposed .
Even though the two facilities would only be just a few miles from one another, the theory is that both locations could offer different amenities.
“From our studies we see a higher need for a leisure-entrance pool in Sumner […] and a competitive lap pool in Bonney Lake,” said LaRue. “The two facilities would be complementary to each other, and people can go to either one depending on what they want.”
The City Council said that there has been a discussion with the Sumner School District to pledge financial support to a Bonney Lake YMCA for use of their pool, but nothing final or concrete.
LaRue said the YMCA is willing to work with the council and other groups to create a facility that best suits its needs and is willing to consider a lease-agreement with the city for the space, rather than own it completely. At the retreat, the council unanimously decided to draft an agreement letter with the YMCA that would lay out plans for the city to own the building but allow the YMCA to operate it.
“We are going to fund 80 to 90 percent of the costs. Why would we give them the building?” said City Administrator Don Morrison.
“So then, why would we buy a brand new car and hand the keys over to someone else?” countered Proctor.
“Because we don’t want to drive it,” replied Morrison.
“We’re hiring the YMCA to drive it, and our kids are sitting in the backseat,” added councilmember Mark Hamilton.