Community

Support for a YMCA in PO ahead of reality

 

A small group of Port Orchard citizens, led by Mayor Lary Coppola, is working aggressively to bring a YMCA to Port Orchard.

But YMCA leaders say that the project won’t be done for several years — if at all.

“We’re not making any commitments to the Port Orchard community,” said Ron McMahon, senior vice president of market and financial development for YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap counties. “We didn’t have any other plans until they came to us. We don’t know what the demand is.”

The city will need to conduct a market study followed by a funding feasibility study, before the YMCA considers bringing a branch to Port Orchard, he  said.

“With the market study, we’d look for the interest level,” he said. “How many people would join? What kind of amenities would they want if they did join?”

YMCA would try to determine the scope and size of the facility the Port Orchard residents would want, and “if you build it, will they come?” McMahon said.

The city of Port Orchard has allotted $20,000 for the initial market study, and Kitsap County has promised another $20,000.

YMCA leaders recommend that Port Orchard not go forward with the study until the new Haselwood YMCA in Silverdale has been open for one year, to see what percentage of Port Orchard residents are using that facility.

“We recommend waiting until next spring at the earliest,” McMahon said.

Once the market study is complete, he said, the city should present their results to the YMCA’s leaders.

If they like the idea of going forward with the project, at that point they would encourage Port Orchard to conduct a feasibility study, to determine if funds are available for the project and how the money could be raised.

This part of the process would determine: “How would we fund it? Is there public and private funding? Can we match the demand with the money?” McMahon said.

The process could take several years.

It took one full year of construction to complete the $22 million, 85,000-square foot facility in Silverdale, which opened in May.

“You need a year to build it, a year to plan it, and some time for fundraising,” McMahon said. “The minimum would be two years.”

But the Port Orchard planning group – including Coppola, Billi Jean Gurnsey, Bryan Lyman and Eric and Lars Kvinsland – is working aggressively to bring the YMCA to the city.

It has already scoped out two properties as possible sites for the project.

“One would be the 18 acres on Bethel, to the left of Windermere,” Gurnsey said. “The other is the Givens site.”

The county suggested that the planning group consider the Givens Community and Senior Center on Sidney Avenue for the YMCA, Gurnsey said.

“They might donate the property with a lease, like Silverdale,” she said, “and we would need to demolish the old building.

“We don’t think the property will be big enough.”

YMCA-related plans have become a point of difference between Coppola and his challenger, Tim Matthes, in this fall’s mayoral campaign.

Matthes has approached the issue much more cautiously than Coppola.

“There’s been no survey to determine if it’s needed,” he said at an Oct. 6 debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

“I really don’t think we can afford a Y in Port Orchard,” he said, “and it’s disingenuous to talk as if we can.”

Matthes has suggested busing Port Orchard residents to the YMCA in Silverdale or the one in Gig Harbor.

He spoke more moderately about the issue at an Oct. 13 forum sponsored by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce.

“I never said I didn’t want a YMCA,” he said, though he noted that if Port Orchard does get a facility, “it’s probably four to eight years away.”

He also said he “has some concerns over financing” for such a facility.

Coppola has spoken strongly in favor of the facility.

“I put this question up on Facebook and other social media sites,” Coppola said, “and the people responding said overwhelmingly that they want this.”

The four candidates in the two contested races for City Council seats have all said that they generally support bringing a YMCA to Port Orchard, although none are involved in the citizen planning group to bring it to the city.

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