Are Two YMCAs Too Much?

Locals debate pair of projects separated by five miles.

Breeze Wetzel, a Bonney Lake resident and mother of two, spends a lot of time driving. Every week, she drives about 30 miles round-trip to take her two daughters to the Korum Family YMCA in Puyallup for swim lessons.

Over the next decade, if Wetzel wanted to take her kids to the YMCA, she’ll have two to choose from: a new, 50,000 sq. ft facility two miles down the road or another, equally new 60,000 facility further down SR 410 in Sumner.

While some may celebrate Wetzel’s expanded choices, others wonder if two towns with 27,000 people and even slimmer city budgets need a combined 100,000 sq. ft. of YMCA space, at $300 a square foot.

“The YMCA is a business, bottom line,” said Darren Proctor, chair of the Bonney Lake Park Board. “They may offer a lot of great programs, but not everything a community needs.”

Even so, Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson has dedicated $1 million of city funds to building a YMCA and ; Sumner has raised over $5 million in local fundraising and community donations.

In Sumner, the Y is the centerpiece of the proposed Orton Junction, a 182-acre, mixed-use community on the Winco side of SR 167, currently outside the city’s urban growth area. Bonney Lake’s YMCA is planned in the area currently known as the WSU Demonstration Forest, almost 50 acres of forest land on the back side of Wal-Mart already zoned for development.

If all goes according to plan, the two facilities would be within five miles of each other.

“Sumner already has an incredible sense of community that goes back generations. It’s great to think of what it could do with a Y,” said Michelle LeRue, communications director for Pierce County YMCA. “And then in Bonney Lake, which has grown extensively, there’s a deep need for community. The YMCA could be the perfect facilitator for that.”

 LaRue said the YMCA isn’t worried that the two facilities would be mere miles from each other – the Morgan Family and Tacoma Center YMCAs are 3.5 miles away from each other.

“Those two facilities are very complimentary to each other. People work out at the downtown location in the afternoon on their lunch breaks and take their kids to the Morgan Y for programs in the evening. There is no competition.”

Combined, the Morgan Family and Tacoma Center YMCAs serve a population of 20,000, compared to the 21,000 estimated customers in East Pierce.

City leaders, including Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow and Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson, are advocates for the YMCA and say the two projects are needed to meet the regions’ growth and resident needs.

“We need a YMCA in town. There are so many kids today who don’t have outlets or things to do outside of school,” said Dave Enslow, mayor of Sumner. “The YMCA provides the community framework and morals that help kids make positive choices.”

The fight for a YMCA started to take hold in 2008, after residents in Sumner began voicing their concerns about a growing need for safe places for kids to hang out closer to home.

The YMCA is also a key component to the future development plans in both Sumner and Bonney Lake and could be seen as a regional draw, with potential members from neighboring towns like Enumclaw, Buckley and Orting. Also, when it comes to building costs, the YMCA covers 40 to 60 percent, with the local municipality and donations paying the rest, an investment in recreation and community without the taxpayer burden.

The YMCA is not a free organization, but it does subsidize $3.5 million in memberships across Pierce and Kitsap County. Even so, some worry that the people who would benefit most from a YMCA wont be able to access it.

During the , the council unanimously voted to support plans for a YMCA, against the recommendations of the Park Board, which supports a government-run community center.

“The difference between a community center and a YMCA is, the YMCA offers a narrow scope of services to its members,” said Proctor. “We feel a city-run facility could have a broader spectrum and serve our senior citizen, special needs and low-income populations better.”

The Bonney Lake Park Board sent a survey to 600 community members last year, asking their top priorities for parks and recreation projects. People said they wanted more trails, an athletic complex and community center or YMCA. The board also visited surrounding community centers and YMCA facilities to get a sense of what could happen in Bonney Lake.

While the Y pays for 40 to 60 percent of it’s project, Proctor found that most city-run community centers recover 75 to 80 percent of costs after construction.

For example, the City of Federal Way has a 72,000 sq. ft. community center that features two pools, a banquet hall, gymnasium and various activity rooms. Voters passed a $15 million bond to build the $21 million facility, which is currently funded through a 1 percent subsidy on resident utility taxes.

In terms of cost-recovery, Federal Way has recovered 87.6 percent of building costs since it opened in March 2007 according to Doug Nelson, community center supervisor for the Federal Way Community Center.

At the March 5 special meeting, Proctor asked the Bonney Lake City Council why they would want to buy a brand new car and give it away – why spend city dollars to build a facility and hand the keys over to someone else to drive?

City Administrator Don Morrison said the city would hand the keys over because they don’t want to drive it – the politics of a community center, the future cost burdens in an uncertain economy, are too risky to place entirely in government control.

But, some wonder whether it’s fair to ask residents to pay for the creation of a private organization.

"[Bonney Lake] wants to ask its residents for $8 million more for a YMCA, but not everyone who pays into the bond will be able to use it," said Proctor.

And those who will likely already have options, said Brent Mounds, general manager of Prime Fitness. Currently, there are over 15 fitness centers and gyms in Bonney Lake and Sumner combined.

“Why do we need two huge YMCAs when there are gyms already here? There are plenty of options already, I think this whole thing is about getting a pool,” said Brent Mounds, general manager of Prime Fitness. “It’s horrible for us, the YMCA is going to drive the local business out.”

Rebecca Giles, director of the Sumner-Bonney Lake Recreation Department, believes local families need a variety of local options.

“There needs to be more local options for people who can’t afford a gym membership,” said Giles. “We give scholarships to people, but they are afraid to ask for them. They don’t want us to know they’re having a hard time. There needs to be a place where there is no fee and somewhere for them to go.”

The Sumner School District has pledged support for a YMCA pool . However, Ann Cook, Sumner School District communications spokesperson, said there have been no official talks on what a district partnership with two facilities would look like. 

LaRue defended the plan, saying said that the YMCA could help fill those unmet needs and each building tailors its programs to the community it serves.

“Before we open, we send a survey out to gauge what the residents want and need. We don’t want to offer things they don’t want,” said LaRue.

Still, that isn’t enough to satisfy Wetzel and the thousands of other local families that needed options yesterday. In 2007, the YMCA surveyed Bonney Lake and Sumner residents – 50 percent, or 25,000 people, said they wanted a YMCA.

Bored kids with limited local options have been at the forefront of discussions in community summits and public safety meetings – there is a local, immediate crisis that today’s teenagers won’t see resolved.

Nancy May 09, 2011 at 09:06 PM
While I agree that there is a need for a Y in the local area of Sumner/Bonney Lake/Auburn/Enumclaw, I don't believe there needs to be 2 of them within 5 miles of each other. Bonney Lake would be the prime choice as it is centrally located between these towns & could serve all the communities as a whole. As for the "Gyms" in & around the Bonney Lake area, what are their TOTAL BENEFITS?? From what I've seen & heard, they only have equipment for adults....no pool, sauna, jacuzzi, child geared classes, etc; a Y would provide for the WHOLE FAMILY in one location making it much easier for them to enjoy getting involved in a HEALTHY way of life!!!
Fred Bomonti DC May 09, 2011 at 10:27 PM
I have been associated with the Mel Korum YMCA since 1999 (when it was not yet the Korum YMCA) and feel that Mr. Proctor is not fully aware of the range of options that the YMCA offers. The YMCA offers financial assistance for a large percentage of it's members and serves more than just young people and children. People with disabilities, mature adults (I dislike the term "senior citizens" as I would be defined as one), singles, families, and children of all ages can find programs at the "Y" that do more than just help build the body. Programs to help build stronger families, address personal growth, and strengthen the Spirit are all a part of the YMCA. If all you want is just a good workout on some machines there are a number of cheaper options that do a good job, but if you would like a place to go to workout and possibly be assisted and/or supported in your personal, spiritual and/or family life, then the YMCA may be a better fit for you. Fred B
Laurie Carter May 10, 2011 at 05:49 AM
Yes We Need a Couple of Compatible YMCAs in East Pierce County Y memberships are comparable to Sumner Pool fees, but with more programs available. There are teen nights and a program for 6-7-8 graders that are open to non-members at the Y. Bonney Lake has indicated that funding of the Sumner-Bonney Lake Parks & Rec program would continue, offering programs not offered at the Y or school sports programs. Probably the biggest barrier between Sumner and Bonney Lake is a very steep hill with a highway with 55 mph speeds and no sidewalks known as Elhi Hill. With the reduction of bus service, high gas prices, how will our youth in Bonney Lake get to a YMCA in Orton Junction without parents like Breeze Wetzel shuttling them up and down the hill? That hill is a huge barrier between the plateau and valley. Two of Sumner’s neighbors already have YMCAs, Auburn and Puyallup. So, that argument doesn’t seem to hold water, unlike the pool we hope to get in a Bonney Lake YMCA. Being a city on a lake, swimming lessons are a must to keep everyone safe. The bottom line is, youth, families and senior citizens in East Pierce County need the services one or two YMCAs can provide in a manner that is more economical than either city or the school district can take on during these budget times. For the price of a latte each month, each city could offer services they do not currently have if a bond is passed to finance these needed facilities. Laurie Carter BL Council
Kristin May 10, 2011 at 04:19 PM
I agree with the previous posts. Our family has benefited enormously from our membership at the YMCA and we cannot wait to have a shorter drive! The price of membership is incredibly reasonable, and offers much, much more than any gym in the area. The cost of our family membership alone would cover the cost of swimming lessons for our children at the Sumner pool. They have a generous scholarship program; I doubt that any individual or family who wanted to join would not be able to due to finances. I am wondering if the facilities will offer similar activities, or, for instance, will one have a pool while the other won't? I look forward to more updates on patch.com about the YMCA; we're always anxious to hear what's brewing, as we simply can't wait til they're up and open!
Darci McConnell May 10, 2011 at 07:41 PM
We need the YMCA! Although there are several gyms in the area they don't offer any options for our kids!! Kids need things to do and the support of the community to give them options and keep them from hanging out at the local shopping centers and woods. The YMCA is an assest to the area and the sooner they are built the stronger our community will be.
Kathleen May 11, 2011 at 05:57 PM
No, we do not need two YMCA's five minutes from each other. Additionally, the subjest is not so much "is a Y a good idea" as it is a land use issue. The YMCA in Sumner is on 188 acres of land being rezoned, and to do that rezoing Sumner is trading land people live on and down zoing that land on East Hill..thus lowering the land values for those people. Do they deserve to have even lower land values to accomdate a "YMCA". I don't think so. And what is happeing to the rest of that 188 acre parcel? Is this the highest and best use? Shouldn't cities have community centers that they support rather than a corporation such as the YMCA who may make the decision to close or move without ANY vote from the citizens since it is privately owned? I've lived in the area since 1974 (first on 214th until the SAfeway made it hard to have a farm). Things change with corporations and you are better served with a community center the public can actually control.
Kristine May 11, 2011 at 07:25 PM
As a Sumner resident I would not consider Auburn a convenient neighbor to Sumner. Trecking back & forth to Auburn to take my kids to the Y is not cost effective nor is it "quick". Neither is the Puyallup Y- 2 highways- up a hill- nasty traffic on Meridian... not convenient. Furthermore, schlepping up the hill to Bonney Lake in that congestion isn't practical for Sumner residents either. Sumner has one proper workout facility that comes to mind & it's very small & pricey. Not at all in line with what a YMCA offers... & certainly much less than what Bonney Lake currently offers residents. In Bonney Lake there are already at least 2 much larger facilities available to join- more than any Sumner resident is currently & conveniently offered. Our gym workouts entail car trips via highways and huge hills & traffic- lots of it- to reach our nearest Y or suitable workout facility. We desperately need more choices that don't involve road trips and traffic. It will be wonderful for the residents of Sumner to be able to hop on a bike or take a nice walk to the Y for a workout...& a strengthening of the spirit! Fred Bomonti DC, above, stated the argument perfectly. The Y is much more than a gym- it truly isn't the same thing- it's so much more. Every class my kids have attended have concluded with interactive life lesson talks...even with the tiniest ones. The Y offers more than any typical "gym" membership ever could. We are thrilled for the Sumner arrival! Sumner deserves it.
Kathleen May 12, 2011 at 04:26 AM
Kristine...so you think that in order to save you a car trip my land should be devalued? You do know that in order for the Sumner YMCA to go in, the City of Sumner is offering to down zone a large tract of homes on the east hill of Sumner, and thus devalue our homes...I have lived here since 1985 and now will have lower zoning. I also lived on 214th in 1974 on in a beautiful farm...when 410 was a quiet two lane road....I moved to this area in 1974 and traded LONG CAR trips to live in a rural area, low density area. My farm is no more thanks to floods of people who moved here for cheaper land, so I moved to Sumnerand now must lose my property value yet again for those, like you, who move out to suburbs and rural areas and then want the city to come to you. If you want "walking areas" and areas for quick bike trips, move to the larger urban areas, like the City of Seattle,, that can offer much more...and by the way, you can bike to the Sumner High School pool, and there are gyms in Aversano's strip mall.....This issue is NOT about the YMCA, it's about 188 acreas and devalueing homes to make a developer and a corporation rich.
Kathleen May 12, 2011 at 04:34 AM
Fred..."Spiritual life" you say? Is the YMCA going to proselytize with my taxes? The Y is asking for funds from the city and county, as you know. hmmmmmm
Kristine May 12, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Kathleen. I am sorry for your unfortunate situation. Please do not make assumtions regarding how long I have lived in Sumner. You have no idea how long I've been here or where I happen to live in Sumner. No idea. Have you been to Seattle? Why should I have to live in that mess in order to have a proper workout facility? Why does a modern gym facility equal the "city coming to you"? It doesn't. Obviously most of us do not want our neighbors' homes devalued and my remarks had zero to do with that. They had to do with fact that Laurie's comments regarding Auburn and Puyallup's YMCAs being convenient, I feel, are far from accurate for me and for all of my friends and family that live here in Sumner. And regarding your remark: "and by the way, you can bike to the Sumner High School pool, and there are gyms in Aversano's strip mall"..... have you been to these places? Besides, perhaps, a workout for yourself- have you ever taken toddlers to gymnastics, ballet, baseball, soccer, dance or judo classes at Sumner high school gym or the Aversano's strip mall? No, you haven't, because it isn't possible. Have you been a member of the YMCA? Have you experienced anything Mr. Bomonti has delicately tried to explain regarding the absolute blessing that a Y can be to a community? My hope is that someday you can if you haven't already. And, regardless of what you may believe, I truly wish that in order for you to do so your property didn't have to be devalued. I am sorry for that.
Kristine May 12, 2011 at 05:06 PM
that would be... "assumptions"... sorry.
Kathleen May 12, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Kristin,...You are sorry that my land is devalued and takes money from my pocket to give you a lifestyle of the quality you think you deserve? Somehow I don;t think that is anywhere near fair. I have belonged to the Y for something like 40 plus years and I have toddler grandchildren I take to numerous functions in the area. No matter how "nice" the Y is, it does not mean that others should suffer loss of income in this difficult economic times in order for the Y to be placed in Sumner...and what about the rest of the 188 acres land? You ARE aware that in order for the Y to go into Sumner that all of the EAST HILL SUMNER residents will be downgraded in zoning and lose their land values? And yes Kristin...wanting modern amenities such as large commercial expansion of 188 acres and taking it from rural designation to commercial designation is indeed trying to make an URBAN location out of a RURAL location.....move to where you can have all the amenities you wish instead of expecting them to be built where you choose to live. If you want convenience..move to it and stop this sprawl. Don't expect for me to pay for your wish for convenience.
Brienna McWade May 13, 2011 at 02:37 PM
I love the idea of the Y coming to the plateau and will likely use it more than if my only option was Sumner. I think those with younger children will take advantage of the facilities most as busy parent's time is at a premium.
Kelda Miller May 16, 2011 at 03:07 AM
I don't think the YMCA is truly community-based and I would like to see something more creative than two YMCAs. 1) For low-income rates its more paperwork then applying for medical assistance from the state, and you don't know what you qualify for till after all that paperwork. No transparent charts. A friend of mine who qualified for all state financial assistance (food, med, section 8) had to stop taking her kids to the Y because they wanted $60 a month, after all the paperwork she did. 2) It's christian. I don't really want tax money going to a religious organization. I'm not a christian. 3) When it moved into South Hill, it put out local businesses. It's hard for a small Tae Kwon Do shop to survive. I'd rather see thriving local businesses. The Y is a nonprofit with a huge war chest. 4) I would never use it. I don't drive to exercise, I just Don't Have a Car and so am exercising all the time (walk and bike). I was part of the U-District Y when I lived in Seattle, our apartment building had a deal for $20 a month per person and I used it for T'ai Chi. But I also lived across the street and it blended in with the local fabric of the Ave. These big box things turn me off. 4) It's got its own community, but doesn't necessarily blend with general community is essentially About. I tried to post a flyer about a Sustainable Puyallup event called "Food Security & The Recession" (about gardening, food banks, etc). We couldn't post at the Y on South Hill.
Kelda Miller May 16, 2011 at 03:12 AM
5) (I ran over characters with last post) I was neutral about the Y, really, but I'm really unimpressed that they're not looking at community and land use issues. I don't like either option. Orton Junction opens up big box mess to farmland, when Sumner already has empty warehouse area. And clearing Pack Forest doesn't make any sense either. I just wish that if they called themselves 'community-minded' that they really were. What I've seen from public meetings and the South Hill Y is only just lip service about community. I mean, Yes they have their own community, but the general community is not a part of that equation. See reasons above. and PS. Kids hanging out in forests, or loitering, I would highly encourage. I think healthy towns have people hanging out on Main St at all hours, and people actually sitting on benches, even if its at the skatepark. And it's all income levels, all different kinds of people, all ages. That's community to me. It would be safe for the kids if the parents were there, had a presence, in our (truly) public spaces showing what community is all about.
Kelda Miller May 16, 2011 at 03:16 AM
Oh yes, and I highly agree with the post above about the bad idea of moving to a rural area but wanting the city's amenities. Voila South Hill and Bonney Lake. In my opinion, if its far enough out that you've got to drive there, than it should be a situation where you only get in the car a couple times a month because you're living a rural, land-based lifestyle. But that's a different conversation .... ;) and PS. Walkable Small East Pierce towns would give people some nice amenities about urban living, while also the quaint stuff of 'village life', and also enough access to land to grow food, etc. Just saying....
yvonne May 28, 2011 at 10:52 PM
I have been hearing about us getting a YMCA in Bonney Lake for almost 2 years, I am anxious to see it built and enjoy using it. Being on Medicare, Healthcare they pay a percentage to keep people moving and active, so a healthier Lifestyle. I heard Puyallup is so over crowded that new facilities will benefit many. Keep us posted on When we can join :)
Kathleen May 30, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Yvonne, the point is WHERE the YMCA wants to locate...In SUmner at Orton Junction it means East Hill Sumner folks get their land devalued to make the trade with PIerce County to allow YMCA to go in. I suggest the better alternative it the vacant land tract right nect to Fred Meyer in Sumner...where the Vet Clinic and Thriftway store used to be and has been bulldozed. That means more walkability to the Y, and keeps people in the downtown section. Sumner could then start marketing itself as the "Kirkland of Pierce County" rather than the sprawl and disorganized city it is becoming now. Putting the Y over rural farm land with rich topsoil takes away from the balance of land and draws people to drive in a larger distance away from Sumner core. But then I don;t think that would satisfy the Y desires. Lastly, I am blown away by the number of people who are so short sighted in the Y location. The purpose is the investor landowner richer at the expense of the citizens of East Hill Sumner...Not fair in my opinion.
Bj Hoover July 13, 2011 at 09:12 PM
hy would you take the freeway????? it takes 5 minutes for me to go daily to the Y on south hill by going the back way
Bj Hoover July 13, 2011 at 09:19 PM
Laurie,,,, your full of it! it costs a couple dollars to goto the pool, it cost 150 for a family of 3 per month. 10 dollars if you go once, an additional 80 for karate or step classes. I call BS. Id rather drive the back way that takes five minutes to south hill YMCA then pay 13.5 million to build something that is going to put 2 family owned companies out of buisness in my area. I will promise you wount get my vote lady. You really want to push your agenda when other companies/jobs are at risk. What happened to a nice rec center. HERE IS MY VOTE x NO!!!!!
Bj Hoover July 13, 2011 at 09:26 PM
Life lessons???? do they have to deal with god?
Bj Hoover July 13, 2011 at 09:32 PM
Totally agree, however the city makes money off of the memberships....Oh didn't know that??? yep, YMCA is non for profit, yes in bad areas the have sponcers pay for a nice place for the kids to get out of drugs, being a hooker or gangs but our area doent have that so how do you get one built??? You sucker the tax payers into paying for it twice, build the building and pay a memebership. The city in turn makes money off of that profit.
Bj Hoover July 13, 2011 at 09:38 PM
YES YES YES, I don't wanna pay for a 13.5 million dollar christian based orgaization either. VOTE NO


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