UW Tacoma, YMCA to build fitness center student union on campus

The University of Washington Tacoma and the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties are partnering to build a $20 million multiuse fitness center on the downtown campus.

If all goes well, the doors to the facility could open as soon as 2015, UW Tacoma chancellor Debra Friedman said Wednesday.

The building, which would be between 55,000 and 70,000 square feet, would house fitness and recreation facilities as well as a new student union and other meeting spaces.

Initial plans call for cardio and weight rooms, group exercise rooms, a gymnasium, locker rooms and gathering places for students.

Students, faculty and staff members would have access to the facility as would current YMCA members. The YMCA’s downtown facility, called the Tacoma Center branch, would remain open, said Bob Ecklund, president and CEO of the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties.

A survey of students a few years ago identified building a fitness center and student union to serve the more than 4,000 students who attend UW Tacoma as a priority, university officials said.

“Students have been itching for these resources,” said Elizabeth Pierini, president of the Associated Students of UW Tacoma. “It’s a great stepping stone for getting students involved on campus and will provide opportunities for students to connect with the community.”

Students would pay for most of the construction costs through activity fees.

The Associated Students has about $4 million saved now to contribute toward the costs.

UW Tacoma intends to pitch in another $4 million, Friedman said. The school would sell bonds to raise the rest of the construction money. Those bonds would be retired through continued collection of fees from student, Friedman said.

The university would own the building but lease it to the YMCA, which would be responsible for equipping, staffing and maintaining the interior, Ecklund said. The university would be responsible for maintaining the outside of the building and the surrounding grounds, said Harlan Patterson, the school’s vice chancellor for administrative services.

A letter of understanding signed by UW Tacoma and YMCA officials calls for a 30-year lease with an option for a 20-year extension, Ecklund said.

The project needs approval from the UW Architectural Commission and the UW Board of Regents.

“There are a lot of steps along the way,” Friedman said.

But she seemed confident the proposal would move ahead.

“It makes a huge amount of sense,” she said.

Plans calls for the facility to be built on university-owned property on the southwest corner of South 17th and Market streets.

The old Longshoremen’s Hall at 1710 Market St. would be razed to make room for the center. The longshoremen’s union has moved its headquarters to Fife and does not oppose the demolition of the building, which now is owned by UW Tacoma, Friedman said.

There has been talk of possibly building a large fitness and recreation center on the campus for years, but things got serious in 2011 after Friedman took over as chancellor, Ecklund said.

“I commend her for her leadership,” he said.

She initiated talks with the YMCA, and plans coalesced over the past eight months or so, Ecklund said.

Friedman said her experiences at the downtown campus of Arizona State University, where she previously served as an administrator, convinced her that partnering with the YMCA was a good idea. A branch Y within walking distance of that campus served a great many needs for the university, she said.

“It was a wonderful intersection,” Friedman said.

Ecklund said he hopes the partnership provides services for students and their families, gives job and internship opportunities to students and continues the redevelopment efforts downtown.

“The outcome is to build a greater Tacoma,” Ecklund said.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644




Jan. 23 forum

A forum Jan. 23 will give students and other people a chance to tell YMCA and University of Washington Tacoma officials what they’d like to see in a proposed fitness center on campus. The forum will run from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. at the Longshoremen’s Hall at 1710 Market St.