Gateway: News

PenMet Parks board tees up new rec center

The Peninsula Metropolitan Park District will proceed with the purchase of a former golf range as the site for a new community recreation center, the PenMet board decided last week.

The park district will pay $4.3 million for the former Performance Golf Center at 2416 14th Ave. NW, adjoining Highway 16 just west of the Narrows Bridge. The sale is expected to close in December.

It’s the second big sports facility to gain approval in the same week, following the city council’s OK of an outdoor sports complex on Harbor Drive.

The planned PenMet facility would have 190,000 square feet of recreation space, including a soccer field, flag football field, pickle ball and tennis courts, a walking track and an indoor playground. The present miniature golf course will be retained.

The center would also incorporate an extension of the Cushman Trail, which would run north from the site.

Construction costs are estimated at $26 million. Glenn Akramoff, the district’s interim executive director, said the board will authorize a $10 million bond issue, and will “aggressively seek other funding from local, state and federal sources.”

Permits for the project are pending approval from Pierce County. A hearing examiner approved a conditional use permit two months ago, but added some conditions that PenMet is still negotiating.

Construction could begin as early as 2021, the district said.

“The Park Board of Commissioners and staff and are immensely excited to move forward on this project,” board president Maryellen “Missy” Hill said in a statement. “The Community Recreation Center will address many of the needs citizens requested in a recent survey, including active space for seniors, programs for special populations, (and) indoor recreation opportunities year-round.”

The seller is Firs Management LLC of Tacoma, which owned the Performance Golf Center.

The green light for the rec center was the second piece of good news for Peninsula athletes in the same week.

On Oct. 14, the Gig Harbor City Council approved an agreement with the YMCA to share costs in building an athletic field complex on Harbor Drive. That complex is to include two lighted artificial turf fields and a restroom. A later phase will add a playground, picnic shelters, and courts for bocce and pickle ball.

The actual design of the PenMet center is still a little up in the air. The original concept included a building topped by an air-supported dome, but that idea was roundly panned in public comments, and the hearing examiner excluded it.

There are advantages to an air-supported roof, Akramoff said, among them more floor space. But they can be hard to maintain, sometimes collapse, and they’re visually imposing.

“Mostly the objections were due to aesthetics,” he said. “The neighbors, in particular, thought it didn’t conform to the aesthetics of the neighborhood.”

During the year-long design period expected after closing, PenMet’s architects will explore various design alternatives, Akramoff said.

“Probably we’re going to end up with some kind of steel-frame structure,” he said. “The trade-off, because of the increased cost, will probably be a little less square footage in the final building.”

Akramoff said the facility will fill a need unfilled since the closing of its soccer facility in 2018, when it lost its lease from Tacoma Screw, which needed to reclaim the property for a warehouse.

“It wasn’t a perfect facility, but the community had gotten used to using it,” he said. “It had become a community asset, and we didn’t have a replacement.”

Since then, PenMet has held more than 20 public meetings, he said, and “got in front of every group on the Peninsula we could get in front of. ”

What people wanted he said, were more than just soccer fields. They wanted basketball and multi-use courts, they wanted meeting places, they wanted a place for senior activities, including walking.

Akramoff said the district has spent the last nine months conducting feasibility studies, and concluded, “we can afford to build it, we can afford to operate it, and people want it.”

Voters approved a lift of the levy lid in 2017, restoring the district’s regular property tax levy rate to $0.75 per $1,000 of assessed value. Under current law, the PenMet board can issue up to $17 million in bonds without a vote by the public. Akamoff said the board will use $10 million of that authority, and seek additional funding in grants from county, state and federal governments.

“We’re also looking at sponsorships,” he said, “since that’s going to be a highly visible site.”

Penmet is still negotiating some technical details and timelines with the county. The county Planning Department wants to see final development plans within a year; Penmet has asked for two.

PenMet is also contesting a requirement that the state Department of Transportation sign off on the site plans, arguing that WSDOT is only responsible for impacts to Highway 16, and has already approved PenMets traffic impact plan.

There is also a disagreement over whether PenMet needs to donate an additional 5 feet of right-of-way to the county on 14th Avenue Northwest. PenMet says the planned extension of the Cushman Trail takes care of that.

There is also a requirement for a noise study by an acoustic engineer. PenMet says it is willing to do the study, but asks that the results govern only the use of amplification on the site, not the entire project.

The county’s replies are expected shortly, Akamoff said, and informally have been “generally positive.”

When both the property and permits are in hand, he said, the real work will begin.

“It’s like building a house,” he said. “Now we need to decide the color of paint and the shade of the drapes.”