EVERETT – Everett, along with 10 other cities in Snohomish and King County and hundreds more nationwide, is vying for a highly competitive, multimillion-dollar grant that could bring a state-of-the-art recreation center to the city.
City leaders started the application process Wednesday to be included in a nationwide Salvation Army grant program. The agency will use a $1.5 billion gift from late McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc and his wife, Joan, to help build and operate 20 to 30 art, education and recreation community centers nationwide.
Though many other cities are clamoring for a chance at being home to a “Kroc Center,” Mayor Ray Stephanson is optimistic about Everett’s chances.
“I really think this could be a perfect match for our community,” he said. “It’s our understanding the Kroc Foundation is looking for a forward-thinking community with a diverse population and a city with a proven track record of completing significant projects.”
Everett has major unmet recreational needs, he said. The centers will be individualized for each community but will be fashioned after a $92 million flagship recreation complex, The Salvation Army Kroc Center, in the late Joan Kroc’s hometown of San Diego.
That 12-acre Kroc building, completed in 2002, houses an ice rink, a gym, an aquatic center, a 600-seat performing arts center, recreation fields, a rock-climbing tower, a dance studio, an indoor skateboard park, a fitness center and arts, religious and educational services.
The Salvation Army plans to build only six to eight centers in the West, which leaves Everett competing against cities such as Denver, Los Angeles, Portland and Honolulu, said Salvation Army Maj. John Chamness, who is leading the project in King and Snohomish counties.
It’s likely that only one Northwest city would receive a Kroc Center, Chamness said.
“It is a very stiff competition, but we think we’ve got a very good opportunity,” he said of Washington’s cities.
Lanie McMullin, city executive director, said Everett may have an edge in the competition because local groups have already gotten together to explore the idea of a community recreation center.
The city, Everett Community College, the YMCA, the Boys &Girls Club of Snohomish County, the Everett School District and others agree on Everett’s need for additional recreation outlets and believe a joint effort is in order.
“Why would we all build separate ones?” McMullin said. “We hadn’t gotten to feasibility yet, but we were all getting our dreams down on paper.”
Stephanson said news of the Kroc Center grant program came at a serendipitous moment in that collective conversation.
“We have begun very preliminary discussions … and all of a sudden we get this opportunity,” he said. “This would just be a tremendous gift to this community, and frankly, we deserve it.”
Stephanson said the city had to identify a place for the recreation complex and settled on a 12-acre riverfront site east of I-5 and north of 36th Street. The site is just north of the city’s planned 100-acre development of the former landfill and Simpson paper and pulp mill properties.
The city already owns most of the proposed site and is negotiating with the Port of Everett, which owns the rest, Stephanson said.
The land transfer is “moving along smoothly,” John Mohr, the port’s executive director, said Wednesday.
“We really hope they’re successful,” he said. “We see this as a tremendous addition to the overall community.”
Mohr said that as soon as the city needs the property, the port will transfer it – hopefully at little or no cost.
“We are that supportive of their project,” he said.
If Everett is chosen for a Kroc Center, the city would donate the land – valued at $3.3 million – to the project, Stephanson said.
Everett will learn in early January whether it has made the first cut. If the city moves on to the next round of the grant selection process, its leaders will work closely with Salvation Army officials on a more comprehensive application, Chamness said.