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Recreation Center backers make their final pitch

South Kitsap Parks & Recreation Commissioner Chuck Jeu made a final pitch on Thursday for his pet project — a $16 million, 20-acre recreation center to be built at the South Kitsap Community Park.

Jeu, who has been pushing the project since the 1970s, addressed a Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Soundview Ballroom.

“People sometimes ask me why we need a sports complex,” Jeu told the group. “But that’s not what this is. This isn’t just about sports. This is a family-oriented community facility. There’s something here for everyone in the family, from the kids to grandmom and grandpop.”

Voters will be asked in November to approve a $16 million, 20-year bond to construct the facility on the 200-acre community park at the corner of Jackson and Lund Avenues. The project would be paid for with a property tax of 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

In addition, voters must also approve a maintenance and operations levy of 13 cents per $1,000 to pay for the project’s upkeep.

The multi-purpose facility would also generate substantial revenues on its own. According to former Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, who joined Jeu in addressing the chamber gathering, studies project the recreation center would $2,000 a month in basketball court rentals, $1,500 a month from concession and video games and $6,000 per month from an on-site daycare center.

Other revenue-generating features include baseball and soccer fields, community meeting rooms, a putt-putt golf course and indoor racquetball courts.

“One-third of the population of south Kitsap County is under 19 years old,” Garrido said. “They need and deserve a recreation facility like this, and this project is strongly wanted the vast majority of the people I’ve talked to.”

The question is whether they’ll pay for it. Garrido, a candidate herself for parks commissioner, conceded the district “has never enjoyed stable funding” and needs to pay greater attention to administrative responsibilities.

Then, too, levies historically struggle in South Kitsap. And this year, with voters having already approved a school levy and a sales tax to help fund public transit, there are questions about the prospects for a recreation center — especially in the face of a struggling economy.

“The economy was worse in the 1970s,” Jeu said. “But South Kitsap voters back then approved building the park on the first ballot. People are always willing to pay for the things that are important to them.”

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