Two years ago, the city of Fircrest decided that upgrading the community’s 1960s-era recreation center and pool was a top priority.
Next week, the City Council and residents will get a first look at how much that might cost.
Councilman Hunter George said he expects some sticker shock when people see how much it would cost the city to make changes to the facilities. That’s partly because at this point the city’s consultants are designing with a wish list, not a budget, in mind.
Fircrest hired ARC Architecture last year to complete an analysis of the property at 555 Contra Costa Ave. The firm will be at a council study session Monday (May 16) to present its ideas and cost estimates.
“The feasibility study is just a simple study to say ‘Here’s what you can do, here’s what you have,’” Mayor Matthew Jolibois said.
The council sees three options for its recreation center: remodel it, expand it, or demolish it and rebuild.
The layout of the 10,877-square-foot center is problematic and outdated, George said. The gymnasium isn’t regulation size and has minimal sideline space for spectators to watch basketball and indoor soccer games. The locker rooms are poorly designed, and meeting rooms aren’t optimally configured, he said.
The Fircrest Kiwanis Club holds monthly membership meetings there, and youth sport leagues use the gymnasium. Senior citizens play cards where yoga and ballet classes share space. There are also painting classes, a drop-in center for teens and noon pickup basketball.
The need for more spacewas evident Friday morning as Cynthia Endicott prepared to teach her Silver Sneakers yoga class. There was just enough space in a narrow meeting room off the gymnasium to spread six yoga mats side by side across the linoleum floor.
Endicott said she prefers the room and its natural light to the gym, which is hard to heat and might be too cold for the senior citizens participating in the class. If the meeting room was bigger, she could add more students.
ARC Architecture presented its initial ideas at a March 30 community meeting. They ranged from interior changes that would make better use of the rooms, to demolishing the entire center and building a 14,108-square-foot facility where the parking lot is currently located. The new building would face onto Electron Way.
All scenarios call for replacement of the pool, a popular community feature that attracted 11,000 visitors last summer. It is one of “very few” remaining outdoor lap pools operated by a municipality in the South Sound, according to Parks and Recreation director Jeff Grover.
The pool deck is uneven owing to underground water that has pushed up the sides of the pool. It also could be leaking large amounts of water, but the city doesn’t have an accurate idea of how many gallons a day are lost.
“It’s ranged from 2,500 to 20,000,” City Manager Rick Rosenbladt said of different readings last summer when the city had to fill the pool. Heavy use and sustained high temperatures likely contributed to the loss, Rosenbladt said.
The city would like to keep lap lanes at the pool for swim lessons and competitions, but is exploring adding more water features.
Ideas proposed at the March meeting included water slides, a splash area with basketball hoop and playground equipment and zero-entry access. All options removed the popular wading pool.
Discussion from that meeting sent the architecture team back to the drawing board to revise the project because people called it “a pool on steroids,” George said.
Rosenbladt said there is another alternative for the pool.
“A cheaper option could be a pool liner that would last eight to 10 years,” he said.
The city has done that previously to maintain the pool. The current liner was installed almost 20 years ago, according to George.
Upgrading the recreational center and pool ranked at the top of a priority list in a parks and open space planning document the City Council adopted two years ago.
Ultimately, the council will decide how extensive the upgrades at the community center and pool should be, Jolibois said. Cost and the community’s willingness to pay for that work will drive what is done to the facilities, he said.
The council can take on a certain level of debt to make improvements without a public vote, but it could also ask voters to approve a park bond to pay for the upgrades. The last time the city asked Fircrest voters to approve a park bond was in 1993 for $595,000. It has been repaid.
Asking voters to approve the financing for the upgrades would show the level of community support for such a project, Jolibois said.
Steve Schoettler with the Kiwanis Club of Fircrest agrees the community center is out-of-date but he doesn’t think it needs to be torn down and replaced.
“It needs updating, but the facility really works fine for what we need,” Schoettler said. That includes using the center’s kitchen to prepare food for the Kiwanis’ major fundraiser held annually at the facility, he said.
Schoettler said he has been asked to sit on a committee to review the proposals for the center.
Fircrest City Council study session
What: Public meeting to hear and comment on plans for an updated recreation center and community pool
When: Monday (May 16), 6 p.m.
Where: Fircrest City Hall, 115 Ramsdell Street