Sammamish City Council signs community center deal with YMCA

February 22, 2013

By Caleb Heeringa

New: Feb. 22, 1:22 p.m.

The Sammamish Community and Aquatic Center took a step closer to reality after the City Council signed off on an operating agreement with the YMCA.

The council approved the agreement on a 6-1 vote at its Feb. 19 meeting, with longtime opponent Councilman John Curley as the lone dissenter. The 25-year agreement, which could be extended to 50 years if both parties agree, outlines the benefits to Sammamish residents, including:

  • A waiver of the $125 joining fee for the first 18 months and a 75 percent discount after that date.
  • Ten percent off all youth facility programs like swimming lessons or after-school programs.
  • Free meeting space for Sammamish-based community groups.
  • Free programs for all Sammamish residents, including senior socials and open swim houses.
  • Weekly community swims open to non-members.

The financial details of the deal remain essentially the same, with the YMCA providing 20 percent of the construction costs of the facility up to $5 million and furnishing the inside of the building with equipment and furniture.

The city will cover the remaining total, estimated to be $25 million. Construction costs will not be finalized until the facility is designed and put out to bid.

The YMCA will handle maintenance of the building while the city will maintain the nearby parking garage, since the city expects the parking to be used for the rest of Lower Commons as well.

The deal also cements a future for another recreational outlet for city residents. For a dollar a year, the YMCA will lease a 7.2-acre parcel of land just south of Pine Lake Middle School to the city for “recreational purposes.”

The city would be required to develop a plan for the property within five years; city leaders have envisioned building more field space there, possibly with an overhead cover so that it could be used during inclement weather or at night.

Curley, comparing himself to Tiresias, a blind prophet in Greek mythology known for soothsaying and clairvoyance, said the city was committing itself into spending millions more in the coming years by tying itself to the YMCA property.

Curley suggested that any profits the YMCA happens to make on the community and aquatic center be earmarked for whatever development goes in on the YMCA property.

“We’re spending $25 million and now we have to spend two, three, four, five million or whatever we have to spend on that property,” Curley said. “If the Y runs a surplus, let’s take that cash and offset the expenses for the next recreational facility.”

Parks Director Jessi Bon noted that the operating agreement calls for the YMCA to keep any profits to go towards the costs of replacing equipment in the facility.

She said she doubted that the facility would be taking in huge amounts of profit, given its potentially significant operating costs, which the YMCA is volunteering to cover on a year-to-year basis.

City Manager Ben Yazici said it’s not fair for the city to ask the YMCA to simultaneously handle any operating deficits in bad years while also handing over profits in good years.

“If we’re asking them to give us that money, it’s only fair that we also share some of the risk,” Yazici said.

Councilman Don Gerend asked that the agreement’s termination clause be extended from five to 10 years to assuage citizens’ fears that the YMCA would back out of the deal and leave the city to run the facility alone.

Either party can back out of the agreement with 18 months notice, but the YMCA would not be reimbursed for its $5 million investment into the facility if it terminated the agreement within 10 years. Gerend’s motion passed unanimously.

Despite assurances that the issue could be handled during the building’s design process, Councilman John James asked that the agreement specify the length and size of the facility’s lap pool – six lanes and not less than 25 yards, as promised in the voter’s guide. James’ motion also passed unanimously.

Mayor Tom Odell said the agreement helps bring the long discussedr community pool closer to reality.

“I could probably find half a dozen little points in here that I could take issue with, but having said that I feel strongly that this is an excellent package,” he said.

The YMCA board must also sign off on the operating agreement.


Reporter Caleb Heeringa can be reached at 392-6434. ext. 247, or

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2 Responses to “Sammamish City Council signs community center deal with YMCA”

  1. Valerie Spiegler on March 1st, 2013 2:34 pm

    At the risk of repeating myself (which I am), shame on the City of Sammamish for swiftly finalizing the gift of $25. million to the YMCA for a community center and pool. This is $25. million that could have been used to jump-start the moribund town center project and release dozens of homeowners from the financial and emotional nightmare the City has put them in.

    The thinking of the City Council and administration is beyond any sane person’s ability to decipher.

    Thank you to John Curley, who is the lone voice of reason at City Hall.

  2. Vincent Cucinelli on March 3rd, 2013 1:40 am

    I find it very interesting how in a lot of the voting material it was praised that the Y was covering all operating costs for this facility. According to this article its being stated that they are “volunteering?!” to cover operational costs on a year to year basis? So if it runs in the red who will pay for it???

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