Residents rally to try to save Tacoma community center

TACOMA — First Creek Neighborhood Association members lined Portland Ave shouting, “Save Our Park” and “Parks are for Everyone.”

It’s all in reaction to plans to close the Portland Avenue Community Center to make way for a new facility. Those who call Portland Avenue home fear they’re being left behind and their kids will suffer.

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“It’s a really nice park to come to,” said parent Heather Bennett.

The Portland Avenue Community Center is hope to open green fields for soccer and rugby, a playground for the kids, and a facility for those in the neighborhood to enjoy.

“I think it’s really essential for kids to go to a park and play,” said Bennett.

But a new Eastside facility will be built across town to replace the old, aging Portland Avenue Community Center.

“Another indoor gym, basketball court that is badly needed in this part of town. It’s got an assembly facility that would be able to hold up to about 300 people. It’s going to have a new aquatic center and a recording studio,” said Director of Recreation & Community Services for Metro Parks Tacoma Dave Lewis.

Director of Recreation & Community Services for Metro Parks Tacoma Dave Lewis says Metro Parks will shut down the Portland Avenue facility as soon as the new one is up and running.

That’s why First Creek Neighborhood Association Leader Stephanie Smith and others rallied in front of the community center to tell their neighbors their beloved center will be no more.

“We no longer have a library in the neighborhood that went away a few years ago.  You basically have to leave the area to get basic things like food or any kind of service,” said First Creek Neighborhood Association Leader Stephanie Smith.

The new Eastside Community Center is two miles from Portland Avenue’s center.  Smith says its two miles too far for people with limited or no transportation at all.

“If there’s one that’s too far away and I don’t have a park to get to it than most likely I’m not going to go,” said Bennett.

Metro Parks Tacoma plans to move the Portland Avenue staff to the new facility telling Q13 News it just can’t afford to operate both.

Then, it’ll sell the property.

“It’s too early to tell what’s likely to happen to the property we’re really just starting this process,” said Lewis.

Smith says what troubles her even more is not knowing what will end up in the place of the community center and greenspace. Her worst case scenario is a developer coming in and building more housing.

“The park gets purchased and gets turned into houses. So we have more and more people living here with less and less options for recreation,” said Smith.

Lewis says community centers aren’t for one neighborhood but for one quadrant of the city.  The new Eastside Community Center will still serve that area but will offer more services in a state of the art facility scheduled to be finished in 2018.

Lewis says Metro Parks will host community outreach meetings to hear from concerned neighbors.