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Recreation Department Abound with Opportunities this Spring for Grown Ups to Play

The Sumner/Bonney Lake Recreation Department has close to a dozen spring programs lined up for adults to socialize, exercise and have fun in spite of declining numbers of participants.

Being a grown up with grown up responsibilities doesn't mean you no longer get to play.

That's the basic belief that drives staff at the Sumner/Bonney Lake Recreation Department to continue to research and provide affordable, engaging and fun sports programs for the 18+ crowd even as overall participation in adult athletic programs has decreased in the last few years.

Outgoing department director Becky Giles, whose last day before retiring is Feb. 28, said though there is no shortage of participation with kids' programs, the downward trend in adult participation began with the onset of the recession around 2009.

As a result, there are people who are enticed to look for recreational opportunities in neighboring cities such as Auburn and Puyallup.

Though cost could understandably be a reason why someone would opt out of joining a program, the Auburn program, according to the city website is charging a fee for its spring softball program of between $820 and $975. The Bonney Lake and Sumner fee for the same sport is $535 for teams in the local service area and $560 for outside teams.

Giles speculates people leave because the outside programs are larger and generally allow for more games and more opportunities to play, with lower risk of cancellations due to lack of attendance or participation.

"Adults need recreation," said recreation specialist Rich Hanson, who will succeed Giles.

He adds that it might also be that some players don't like that most of the department's sports no longer use USSSA officials but are "Call Your Own" - though softball is an exception. With Sumner and Bonney Lake's limited field and court resources, players have to improvise and adapt to imperfect conditions, such as having to play softball on a field that's too big which makes it harder to follow regulations and guidelines.

That improvisation can also carry over to combining programs due to low participation in order to continue offering opportunities for people who still want to play.

Both Hanson and Giles can remember a not-so-distant past when sports like softball, basketball and volleyball would pack the gym, but neither had concrete reasons for why people seem to be falling away from recreational sports.

They guess that some parents' time and financial resources are eaten up by their commitments to their children - particularly those who play in club sports year-round.

But rather than dwell on why they're leaving, the staff -- and Hanson in particular -- continue to look for ways to bring people back to the department.

With one week left before he officially takes over, Hanson was already bursting with ideas to entice people to come back to the rec department, including starting a daytime program for seniors, launching an Olympic-style multi-sport competition in the summer, and establishing opportunities for people who work the night shift to also blow off some steam and get some exercise.

"Rich has new and fresh ideas," said Giles. "I'm looking forward to seeing what he does."

Meanwhile, beginning in April there are opportunities to try a morning boot camp, coed soccer, Zumba, weight training, coed volleyball and men's slowpitch this spring. There's also the popular Adult Flashlight Egg Hunt on March 30. (See this Patch story from years past of the event.)

One program Giles and Hanson were particularly excited about was the "Slide and Pump," an innovative fitness program led by Pan Am Games gold medalist Vicci King at her G.Y.M. Get Your Motivation location in Sumner.

If you'd like to play a sport but are new to the community and don't know enough people to form a team, Hanson said the department does aim to put single players into open spots. Meanwhile, Giles encourages you to go to a game anyway and speak to the coaches and players.

To find schedules, learn more about class dates and costs, or to register for a program, visit the adult activities section of the Recreation Department website.

The deadline to register for coed soccer is March 6; for coed volleyball is April 15; and for men's slowpitch is March 25.

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