During the past two months, the Puyallup Parks and Recreation Center has been one of several city-owned facilities under scrutiny.
Since 1990, it’s stood as an engine of activity for city residents who participate in sports, fitness and general programming. The building was saved after the city purchased it from the YMCA in 1989.
During the past 23 years, the recreation center has never broke even.
The fitness center, which is housed on the second floor of the building, brought in $56,081 in user-fee revenue in 2012, according to a report compiled by interim City Manager Bill McDonald’s management analyst team. In comparison, administrative costs for the fitness center were $258,000 last year and $284,274 overall for the 25,000-square-foot recreation center.
“The operation of the building does not break even,” said Dick Weber, recreation manager for the city. “I don’t think it will ever break even.”
Regardless of the cost to run the building, many facility users and those who support the parks department’s mission are defending the recreation center’s place in the community.
Ernest Bay, a champion for parks and facilities in Puyallup, told the city council last week that the findings presented by the management analyst team were comprehensive.
“I’ve read the report online,” Bay said Feb. 19. “It was an excellent job. But the one thing that concerned me was the reference to the value of the recreation center, and whether or not it might be considered sold.”
Bay urged the council to consider the increase in population that is anticipated in the Puyallup Valley in the future.
“We only have, of course, unlimited resources in the way of parks and recreation,” Bay said. “I would say I would be very cautious about considering the sale of any of these properties, including the rec center. We have too little open space as it is, and that is going to shrink in relation to our oncoming population.”
The recreation center includes a gym and four racquetball courts. The building also sits on 24 acres of open space that has two tennis courts, two basketball courts and a baseball field.
Weber said that, considering its 30-year history, the recreation center is in good shape. He attributes that to the facilities maintenance crew, which is now separate from public works and parks and recreation.
A few longtime facility users checked in Thursday morning at the fitness center. One was Gene Lancaster, who has lived in Puyallup for 46 years and got into a regular fitness routine after he had a heart attack 10 years ago. Lancaster will turn 80 on March 22.
Lancaster started to exercise at the Good Samaritan clinic on South Hill for two years after his heart attack. A neighbor recommended the city’s recreation center, and he’s gone to the facility three times a week for the past eight years.
“This is an excellent place to exercise,” Lancaster said. “It’s always clean and well-run. I hope that the city leaves the recreation center alone. And I hope they won’t sell it.”
Lancaster fears if the building were to be sold, the land would be eaten up by a commercial buyer.
Glenn Peterson, 85, is considered one of the oldest members of the fitness center. He’s been visiting since it was a YMCA.
“I’ve been grandfathered in, I guess,” Peterson said.
Peterson said if the recreation center were to be sold, he’d have to figure out a new routine.
“If I didn’t have this, I don’t know where else I’d go,” he said.
Peterson said the facility is a good service to the community, regardless of whether or not it’s making money.
Weber said a proposed 50 percent reduction in staff hours across the five budgets of the parks department has been delayed to allow for further evaluation. The budgets comprise youth sports, adult sports, the recreation center, community recreation and day camp.
“We live and breathe by part-time people, and those directly impact youth sports,” Weber said.
In total, about 3,500 youth participate in competitive and recreational sports through the department. Weber said he hopes reductions in staff hours, which could mean a reduction in operational hours at the center, will be minimal.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at Andrew.email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.