Eastside center primes for Oct. 20 grand opening

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The day is almost here.

On Oct. 20, the $31 million, 55,000-square-foot Eastside Community Center opens to the public. Located at 1721 E. 56th St. on Tacoma’s Eastside, the center will offer a multi-use gymnasium, a social hall, meeting rooms, a culinary kitchen, a weight room and cardio-fitness areas. The anchor attraction of the center, however, will be a pool that offers lap lanes, a diving board, a climbing wall that drops into the pool, a “drop slide” that also splashes into the pool and zip line that resembles a lake-side rope swing. The pool area also includes a toddler area with a spray feature and a hot tub.

“After years of dreaming, the day is finally here,” said Andrea Smith, president of the Board of Park Commissioners. “The board is excited to celebrate with the entire community.”

The facility has been years in the planning and comes courtesy of a partnership among Metro Parks Tacoma, the City of Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma Housing Authority, the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, the Greater Metro Parks Foundation and the Billy Ray Shirley III Foundation. It is expected to draw up to 350,000 visitors a year, including 200 children a day who visit the center to participate in Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound programs. Some library services will be available in collaboration with nearby First Creek Middle School.

One feature the facility offers comes after community input listed it as a top priority – a production-quality recording studio.

“They wanted a place to make and record music,” Recreation Supervisor Ben Foster said, noting that the facility will also provide recording and mixing equipment as well as lessons on how to use it. “People will be able to come in and do everything from simple editing and making music to recording a whole album.”

The center will operate similarly to the park district’s STAR Center across town, with charges for the pool, weight room and classes. Passes for Tacoma residents run from $19 a month for children to $32 for adults with a $99 per month family cap and financial assistance to qualified residents. Day passes are available for $5 a day. Free amenities include use of the indoor walking track – 19 laps per mile, an indoor slide and wifi access with public computers in the lobby. Metronome Coffee will have location in the lobby as well.

Party rooms, conference rooms and banquet space for up to 500 people are also available for rent.

Future plans include the addition of a boardwalk through the wooded marshland around the center.

Celebration time, come on!

The day begins with the Eastside Families Parade, which starts at 10 a.m. in the Salishan neighborhood. The half-hour parade is usually called the First Creek Back to School Parade, but for this year only it moves to coincide with Celebrate Eastside, ending at the community center’s front doors. Celebrate Eastside formally begins with a 10:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting on Oct. 20 at Eastside Community Center, 1721 E. 56th St., on the campus of First Creek Middle School, and feature music and remarks from Mayor Victoria Woodards. Highlights of the event include the dedication of a time capsule and a host of performers including:

  • Obe Quarless, a steel pan virtuoso whose specialties are soca, calypso and reggae
  • Pachanga Alert!, presenting blend of music from Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina and Colombia
  • Ballet Folklorico de First Creek Middle School presenting regional dances of Mexico
  • Vision Step Team, performing traditional step dance arrangements
  • The League, from the Iconic Arts Complex, doing hip hop
  • The Movement, showcasing young rappers and singers
  • Hearts for Kids, performing traditional and modern dancing from the Pacific Islands

Once the activities wrap up around 2 p.m., the center will be open for guests to stay and play free of charge for the rest of Saturday and all Sunday. And at 6 p.m. Saturday, Eastside Community Center staff will present a free indoor movie and open the gym for basketball.

The event is supported by Graduate Tacoma, Comcast Essentials, Regence and Heritage Bank.

Because space is limited, Metro Parks asks people to sign up to use the recording studio and swimming pool. Signup links will be posted to the Eastside Community Center page when available.

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