Tick tock. Different year. Same conversation. At least when it comes to expansion plans for the busy and often packed Snoqualmie Valley YMCA. But this time a bond may materialize.
At the February 9th Snoqualmie City Council Retreat – and for the second time in two years – Snoqualmie Y Director Nate Smith and YMCA Eastside Regional Executive Marcia Isenberger spoke to council members about the need for more space at the Snoqualmie facility.
This year, though, the YMCA was more direct about the need. And with the new Sammamish YMCA successfully opened, was more vocal that it is ready to move forward with fundraising and a potential capital bond to add more space with additional multipurpose/community rooms, a larger exercise area, another possible gym, as well as a pool.
Snoqualmie Y Director Nate Smith said the facility continues to have one of the highest saturation rates in the country, and membership grew another 9% last year. He said the #1 question he gets from members, often on a daily basis, is when will they add space, including a pool.
Isenberger put it simply, “I want to serve more people.” She said without more space, though, the 13,000 square foot facility is pretty much maxed out with the programming they can offer their 3500+ members. After school and summer programs are packed. If members come to exercise at peak times, there’s little room in the fitness center. Community rooms are in high demand.
Survey Points to Support for expansion
This past month the Y put a survey out to members and non-members to solicit feedback about a potential expansion. Isenberger called the professional survey an $18,000 investment in expanding the Snoqualmie facility – and to show they are serious about the pursuit of more space and more programming.
Only partial, non-member survey results ** were revealed at the council retreat, but Smith said it showed a high-level of support for a potential expansion and pool. He reported that of Snoqualmie (downtown and Ridge) non-member respondents, 47% said they would definitely support a tax increase for such an expansion, 19% said they probably would and 14% were unsure. [Member results were not available at the time of the retreat.]
That expansion, though, cannot happen without a commitment from the city council that they will pursue a future bond. And for the second time in two years, council members seemed non-committal – even while YMCA leadership appeared ready.
Snoqualmie YMCA History
The Snoqualmie Y was built five years ago, in a much smaller capacity than originally envisioned. After three failed bond attempts to build an approximate 35,000 sq. ft. community center with pool, the city pursued a partnership with the YMCA where they would use approximately $4 million of existing Snoqualmie Ridge mitigation funds to build a small facility that the Y would run.
When the Y was designed in 2011, a future expansion was a consideration and thus determined how the current facility was placed on the land parcel. That expansion was always deemed a possibility, but was more of a wait-and-see how the community first responds to the smaller YMCA/Community Center.
Last year the Snoqualmie City Council said it was ready to explore the expansion by [possibly] surveying residents and holding focus groups regarding what programming and facility components were desired, which would help determine the size of the expansion and the amount of a potential bond.
That didn’t happen.
This year, the council appeared to be committed to the same strategy – talking about the expansion some more, maybe surveying residents. They thought running a bond between February and November of 2018 could be a possibility.
Cost of potential Capital Bond
If a bond is run, it’s estimated an expansion would cost about $450 per square foot. With the city discussing a possible expansion to 35,000 – 50,000 square feet from today’s 13,000 sq. ft. facility, it could potentially be an $8 – $15 million bond based on the high estimate cost of $450 per square foot to build. During the council retreat, one rough estimate projected an expansion might cost City of Snoqualmie property owners an additional $10/month in taxes.
The YMCA of Greater Seattle said it is prepared to use fundraising dollars and grants to contribute to the expansion, but that amount is speculative and could be limited to about $1.5 million. If a bond was run in 2018, it is estimated construction wouldn’t finish until approximately 2020.
Director Nate Smith said, “Since opening the YMCA / Community Center in 2012, we have received amazing support from the community. Our membership, community events and programs have flourished beyond our expectations. Due to this growth, we no longer have adequate space to meet all of the community’s needs. We are working with the City of Snoqualmie, the City Council and community members to expand the YMCA / Community Center building, so we can continue meeting the needs of our community in the coming years.”
Conclusion: it seems the YMCA is ready to expand, but is waiting for direction from city leadership, as needed funding would be secured through a City of Snoqualmie voter-approved capital bond.
[** Survey details: Completion of 450 telephone/online interviews with a random sample of local residents, who live within the primary market area of the Snoqualmie Valley YMCA and Community Center, who are not currently members of the YMCA. The geographic definition of this market included Snoqualmie, Fall City, North Bend and surrounding areas. The overall error range for this phase with 450 complete interviews is ±4.8% at the 95% confidence level.**]