YMCA evaluating possible move to Civic Athletic Complex

Six-month study underway to examine feasibility of expanded community recreation and aquatic center

September 20, 2018 - by Vanessa Blackburn, Mayor's Office

The City of Bellingham and the Whatcom Family YMCA have begun a six-month study to determine the viability of a new partnership to expand the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center into a new community health and wellness center and headquarters for the YMCA.

After a preliminary evaluation of several sites in Bellingham and Whatcom County, the YMCA identified the Civic Athletic Complex, including the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center, adjacent ballfields and parking areas, as the best location to develop a modern recreational hub for YMCA members and the broader community.  The site is well-positioned near I-5 and has the potential for expansion, additional parking and renovation of the existing facility.

“The Whatcom Family YMCA has been a big part of our community for nearly 130 years – ​and we want to continue to serve the people of Bellingham for generations to come,” YMCA Executive Director Bill Ziels said. “To this end, we have undertaken an analysis of our facilities to identify improvement opportunities. As we move forward, the Y is excited to collaborate with the City of Bellingham to explore the possibility of offering a much-needed, modern health-and-wellness community center.  I am hopeful that our partnership will result in serving the needs of our community in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.” 

After approaching the City with the idea, both parties agreed to evaluate the value and ​viability of a partnership in this location. A working group of City staff, YMCA representatives, and community members will help lead the due diligence study.

“The City of Bellingham already provides a range of recreational opportunities at this location,” Mayor Kelli Linville said. “This is an exciting opportunity to see if a partnership with the YMCA results in expanded and more efficient services for our community.”

The Whatcom Family YMCA is a not-for-profit organization whose aim is to serve everyone – especially diverse and underserved communities – with programs for the spirit, mind, and body. Last year, the Y served more than 14,000 youth, adults and seniors across Whatcom County, in programs ranging from senior services, daycare, educational services and recreational facilities. It currently operates four facilities — downtown Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden and Barkley (childcare only) — with after-school enrichment, youth sports, adult fitness, summer camp, swim lessons, chronic disease prevention and community-based senior programming taking place throughout the county.

The downtown Bellingham Y is the longest operating site and was built in 1908. While the current location has served the community well for the past 76 years, a new or renovated facility will enable the Y to serve more people, provide more programs, and further expand its mission – so everyone, regardless of age, income, or background, has the opportunity to reach their full potential.  

Both the City and the YMCA recognize that the current facility location represents a significant value for downtown and have committed to work together to explore how it could be best used to support the City's Downtown Bellingham Development Strategy.

“I am deeply committed to the health of our City Center. While we explore whether this new location and partnership is feasible, developing a plan for the YMCA's existing space located in downtown is equally important,” Mayor Linville said. “In the event that the Civic Athletic Complex proves feasible, I've asked City staff and the YMCA leadership to work together to explore how the existing YMCA assets can be reused and redeveloped to meet our community and economic goals of our downtown.”

The work group plans to issue the findings from the preliminary evaluation by April 2019.

Media Contact

Melissa Bianconi, Recreation Manager
Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department
(360) 778-7000

Bill Ziels, CEO/Executive Director
Whatcom YMCA
(360) 733-8630

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