Options for Seattle community centers include closures

Jun 16, 2011

Some neighborhoods could lose their central gathering spots for kids and seniors. The city is considering closing several community centers or reducing hours to cut costs. 

No one really wants to see any of the city’s community centers close. The whole reason they exist is to have neighborhood spaces that are open to everyone and that’s pretty difficult if they’re, well, not open.

There’s just one big problem, says Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw:

“We know how many people just love their community centers," she says. "That said, we’re in a budget time where we can’t continue running our centers in the same way that we have."

So, a committee of volunteers has come up with some suggestions:

  • charge non-residents more to use the centers.
  • charge more for classes, sports fees, and childcare services
  • utilize volunteers more

Bagshaw says those proposals just nibble at the problem. A more realistic solution is to vary each center’s hours. The city would create a “tiered” system. Buildings that meet the following criteria would be in the top tier, and the only ones open full time:

  • contains special amenities (such as pools, special courts)
  • heavily utilized
  • located in underserved neighborhoods

If those cuts aren’t deep enough, the plan of last resort is closure. Somewhere between 2 and 10 facilities could go dark, unless an outside organization like the Boys & Girls club steps in to operate them.

Councilwoman Bagshaw says it isn’t necessarily all doom and gloom. Until the mayor and city council make their final decisions next fall, people will have several chances to speak up about what they want in their communities. That could end up making the centers more relevant.

To let the city know what you think of the options, head to the public meeting tonight or fill out this online survey. The survey deadline is July 1.

Meeting Information:

Date: Thursday, June 16

Location: Jefferson Community Center, 3801 Beacon Ave. S.

Time: 7 - 8:30 p.m.