Kids at Bremerton’s brand new $4.5 million Boys & Girls Club have found themselves without daily gym space ever since the auxiliary gymnasium at the old East High School was closed due to roof damage shortly after the club opened.
The larger gym is used by a host of other youth groups and club members have had only sporadic access to that space.
Youth Wellness Campus Executive Director Patricia Hennessy said this week that she is working with the Bremerton School District, the Boys & Girls Club and other stakeholders to find a solution. She says her organization’s top priority is raising about $500,000 to re-roof the entire 40,000-square-foot structure, covering both the auxiliary and larger gyms.
The Youth Wellness Campus signed a lease with the school district in February effectively making the organization the landlord of the entire seven-acre project area. That lease supersedes a lease that the Boys & Girls Club had in place guaranteeing them use of the auxiliary gym, not to mention the storm damage that made the smaller gym unsafe.
“We certainly want to make sure the auxiliary gym is available to the Boys & Girls Club,” Hennessy said. “I feel horrible, but I didn’t call up Mother Nature and say, ‘Could you have a storm come through and just tear up the roof.’ I mean, I didn’t do that. We’re not trying to tell the Boys & Girls Club that they can’t use this gym. What I have to do is make some prudent business decisions about what type of revenue I can generate to offset the expense of operating this gym.”
Hennessy said it costs about $50,000 a year to keep the both gyms open every year and many other groups, such as the PeeWees, have been using the space for years.
“As far as the Boys & Girls Club using this gym, I’ve never said ‘no,’” Hennessy said. “We have met with the Boys & Girls Club and we’re working on an agreement where they are really going to help us raise some money to re-roof this place.”
And, Hennessy promises that operational costs will not be born by increased fees or rates imposed on youth groups.
“That (operating cost) is not going to be (made up) on gym usage fees. Period,” Hennessy said. “I mean, there is no way we can bring enough organizations, especially kids groups, into this gym and charge them to make up those operating costs. So, what we’re really committed to doing is working individually with every single organization that wants to use this space to create a win-win because we want kids in here.”
Hennessy said that the Boys & Girls Club ideally would like to have access to the gym for two to three hours a day Monday through Friday.
“They’ve asked for a key, but I can’t do that for security reasons,” she said.
In the meantime, Hennessy says she will continue to work with stakeholders to find scheduling solutions.
“Right now, we have other groups that do not permit them from having the gym five days a week for two to three hours a day. With scheduling, that is not possible. But, every group that is scheduled in this gym is youth focused.”
Hennessy said she hopes that the roof replacement, and necessary fund raising, can be done as early as this summer.
“I don’t want to say to 600 kids and their families and coaches, ‘Hey, sorry, you just lost your gym space.’ Because that would not be an easy conversation to have with this community,” Hennessy said.