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Seattle Times: At Last, a Sparkly New Community Center for Rainier Beach

Alan Berner — The Seattle Times

Art points the way to the main desk at the new Rainier Beach Community Center. The “1 percent for the arts” piece is by Roy McMakin and Jeffry Mitchell. Seattle officials dug deep to find money for the new facility during a period of budget cuts and staff layoffs.

From our news partners at The Seattle Times: Seattle Parks and Recreation will open the $25 million Rainier Beach Community Center and Pool to the public for the first time Sunday afternoon.

Three years ago in the rundown Rainier Beach Community Center and Pool, buckets caught water leaks, and disabled people had to use a difficult ramp to get to the dank, sunless gym in the basement.

"It was a definite teardown," said recreation center coordinator Martha Winther.

The center was leveled in 2011, and its $25 million replacement will be revealed Sunday.

Everything is on the 48,500-square-foot center's main floor, where natural light pours into every space and a bold interior design welcomes every visitor. The only hint of the past are salvaged wooden beams that decorate the center's exterior and interior walls.

The building uses a long list of eco-friendly elements such as natural ventilation, a rainwater harvesting system that supplies 90 percent of toilet water, and a geothermal energy system. Solar panels do most of the work of warming water for a large lap pool and a recreational pool. The latter includes a shallow baby wading pool, a corkscrewing water slide with two 360-degree turns, and playful water sprays above a "lazy river."

A giant, three-dimensional hand designed by artists Roy McMakin and Jeffry Mitchell floats from the ceiling and points to the main desk, where staff can help people register for exercise, music, art and cooking classes. Fall classes include instruction in hip-hop dancing, ukulele and frosting decoration.

Police Detective Denise "Cookie" Bouldin's locally famous chess lessons also will be taught at the center.

The aquatics manager, Kathy Whitman, expects the swimming courses to be the most popular, though. Whitman said the Rainier Beach Community Center had the most swimming students of any community center in the city in 2010.

Read the full story here.

About the Author

Alexa Vaughn, Seattle Times staff reporter