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A special place for families opens in South Tacoma

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on April 30, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
April 30, 2012 5:00 pm

Metro Parks' STAR Center is open in South Tacoma. (Russ Carmack/Courtesy of Metro Parks Tacoma)

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The era of tight budgets and declining revenues has had at least one positive side effect: It’s forced many public agencies to rethink their old fiefdom mentalities and focus on how they can partner to provide services in economical ways that don’t overlap.

That kind of new thinking is on display in spades at the South End Recreational Adventure Campus, which includes a Boys & Girls Club Topping Hope Center, Gray Middle School, Metro Parks ballfields and the park district’s shiny new STAR Center, which opens for public use today.  (A community open house will be held May 19.)

The STAR Center – STAR stands for South Tacoma Activity and Recreation – is a $16 million facility on South 66th Street that replaces the South Park and Manitou community centers. It’s designed to complement the recreational and educational programming provided by the Tacoma School District and the Boys & Girls Club.

While the club focuses on after-school and summer programs for children and teens, the STAR Center is geared toward the health and fitness of adults, special-needs people and families. It also provides meeting and events spaces for small or large groups.

The center has exercise equipment for adults, a  toddler gym and indoor playground, a studio for exercise and dance classes, another studio for low-impact workouts, and a kitchen offering classes and space for event caterers. It’s environmentally green,  with solar tube lighting, rain guards that channel water into filtering fields and then into the scenic retention ponds, and a few exercise bikes that translate pedal power into electricity for the center.

Coming in June: the South Tacoma farmers market, moving from a bank parking lot off South 56th Street to the space next to the STAR Center. Longer term, plans call for for an outdoor playground, sprayground and event pavilion. And Metro Parks will partner with Joint Base Lewis-McChord on a nearby adventure park complete with zipline and trails.

The center is a terrific resource for the South Tacoma community, which is already making heavy use of the adjacent Boys & Girls Club. On a recent weekday in late afternoon, hundreds of children from elementary school to high school age were making use of the club’s recreational opportunities.

Now it’s the East Side’s turn for some attention. That’s an underserved community that sorely needs something like the South End Recreational Adventure Campus.

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