Change is coming to Camp Seymour to the tune of a $4 million project.
The YMCA’s popular camp on the Key Peninsula has seen such growth over the years that the organization is building a new dining hall and covered campfire area, which launched the camp’s first capital campaign.
“Our current dining hall is woefully undersized for our current operations,” said Geoff Ball, the camp’s senior executive director.
The dining hall was built in 1929 and has been expanded several times but no longer can accommodate the increasing number of campers.
The new facility will be double the size, about 10,000 square feet, and will seat up to 350 people, a big jump from the 280-person capacity of the current dining room.
It will have modern kitchen equipment, outdoor seating and a lobby with coat hangers and hand washing stations. Included in the building are a small café that will serve fancy coffee drinks to adult visitors and a store selling camp T-shirts and trinkets.
Next door to the hall, cement beams are going up for a covered amphitheater-style facility that will allow campers to sit around a campfire even in inclement weather.
Work began in October on the project, which is on the last waterfront area where construction was possible at 106-acre Camp Seymour. Diners will have incredible views of Glen Cove out large windows at the front of the building.
Crews were expected to be done in June, but now say they can finish by the end of April. They will next install storefront windows and roll-up doors that will provide more space for the dining hall when needed.
A basketball court and covered archery range were displaced by the project. Officials said another archery range at the camp has been expanded and areas are being scouted for a new basketball court.
The old dining hall will be used for indoor program space and storage.
The improvements are all part of Camp Seymour’s master plan, which was crafted 12 years ago. The plan called for infrastructure expansion as visitors increased, as well as improved water and sewer capacity, YMCA spokeswoman Michelle LaRue said.
Over the past 15 years, the camp’s bed capacity has grown to 280 from 200. It is expected to increase to 350 over the next decade.
That projection is on track with growth in the number of participants, which swelled to 13,000 last year from 5,500 in 1995, officials said.
“In our current culture, the value of camping continues to be very, very important,” Ball said. “We stand by the outdoor experience. Being able to teach kids how to build relationships is key in life.”
Camp officials hope others in the community feel the same way, and are willing to invest in them.
Although the project costs $4 million, the camp has raised $2.5 million through fundraising and private donations. To help raise funds, officials are offering to inscribe donors’ names on bricks, amphitheater benches and picnic tables in exchange for donations ranging from $250 to $5,000.
Interested parties can visit campseymour.org for more information.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653
ABOUT CAMP SEYMOUR
Camp Seymour started in 1903 when W.W. Seymour allowed a group of children from the Tacoma YMCA to camp on his waterfront property. Two years later, it became an official camp site when they threw tents up on the shores of Glen Cove.
The first dining pavilion was built in 1908, when about 60 boys attended summer camp. Seymour eventually deeded 125 acres to the YMCA, prompting officials to name the camp in his honor.
Now, Camp Seymour offers a variety of programs, including summer camp, outdoor environmental education, retreats and challenge courses to build teamwork.