Possible YMCA for Kent residents boosted by state funding

Kent Reporter

City leaders and community members all agree that the city of Kent would be well served by a new YMCA in the fast growing and diverse community of 124,000 people.

The possibility of a Kent YMCA is one step closer Tuesday as the state Senate approved its state capital budget proposal, which includes $500,000 to get the East Hill project under way.

"A YMCA in our Kent community would be an incredible asset to people of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to the many valuable classes, camps and after-school programs found at the center, being able to provide a new aquatic center would provide great opportunities for local high school swimmers," said Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, who worked to secure funding for the project and is a former swim coach in the Renton and Highline school districts.

The YMCA of Greater Seattle, which operates 12 locations, and the city of Kent agree that a new facility would help meet the demand for additional indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities for families of all ages and economic means. Proposed siting for the facility would be in a community park, providing a variety of activities for all area residents.

"A YMCA would be a transformative project for Kent, which is home to residents with an incredibly diverse array of languages, cultures and religions, including many low- and lower-income families," said Mayor Suzette Cooke. "Given Kent has never had any type of YMCA, YWCA, or Boys & Girls Club, there is a clear need for additional indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities in the city, especially for disadvantaged youth. Partnering with the YMCA to nurture the potential of Kent's kids and their families is the most financially feasible way to meet this community need."

The state's capital budget pays for statewide infrastructure to maintain and construct public schools, higher education facilities, parks and other state and community assets. The closest YMCA facilities are the Auburn Valley YMCA and the Matt Griffin YMCA in SeaTac.

"The YMCA and members of the Kent community have been working for years on developing a YMCA in Kent," said Bob Gilbertson, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Seattle. "Adding a Y to the social and recreational infrastructure will have a huge positive impact for local residents. As community momentum builds for this project, it is clear that it will take voluntary, philanthropic and government support to successfully build and operate a full service Y. Bipartisan support from Senator Fain and Representative Sullivan in the legislature demonstrate how important and popular this effort is, and how much the project depends on Kent residents and communities cooperatively to creatively contribute."

The Senate and House of Representatives have passed capital budgets and will now work to approve one final plan before the legislative session ends April 26.