By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

A push to develop a full-service YMCA in Bend plans to ramp up its fundraising efforts next year.

The YMCA has been quietly operating in Bend for less than a year, as part of a partnership with Solid Rock Community Church and the Albany-based Mid-Willamette YMCA.

Crystal Henderson said interest in a local YMCA began in 2015, when she and her husband, Jonathan, moved to Bend so Jonathan could take over as pastor of Solid Rock Community Church. The 5-acre church property next to Jewell Elementary School struck them as a perfect site for a community center, Crystal Henderson said, and they began reaching out to YMCA contacts they had made when they lived in Albany.

Since March, a before- school and after-school program, as well as a preschool offered through the church have been operating under the YMCA banner. The programs are small, she said, with 24 kids in the preschool program and 20 in the before- and after-school programs.

Ultimately, Henderson said they would like to raise the estimated $22 million needed to build a full-service YMCA on the property, complete with classrooms, gym space and an aquatic center.

Although southeast Bend neighborhoods have been growing rapidly in recent years, the area lacks a community hub, Henderson said.

“The southeast community is kind of left out; there’s not a whole lot out there,” she said.

Over the next year, local organizers are hoping to raise about $500,000, Henderson said. It will be used to add staff, improve outdoor play areas and conduct a communitywide mailing and online survey to gauge community interest in a YMCA.

If the interest is there, Henderson said they will aim to build a gym and classroom spaces within three to five years, at an estimated cost of $6 million.

The YMCA push occurs as the Bend Park & Recreation District is moving toward expanding the Bend Senior Center to an all-ages community center. District spokeswoman Julie Brown said the district is on track to break ground in 2019 on a project that would add a gym, a pool and a variety of multi-use spaces to the senior center.

The park district board has in recent years discussed the need for indoor recreation spaces and the possibility of building a second aquatic center in the model of Juniper Swim & Fitness Center, but has not moved past initial discussions.

Brown said she and others with the park district met with Henderson and other backers of the YMCA effort a few months ago. The district generally is supportive of the plans, she said.

“I think the growth in this community is so much so that we look at opportunities to partner with others,” Brown said. “The breadth of offerings is complementary as far as what we’re trying to do to enrich the lives of members of the community.”

Henderson said with Bend approaching a population of 100,000, the community has the numbers to support another two or three aquatic facilities.

The district starts next week on updating its comprehensive plan, a recurring process that seeks to determine the community’s recreational needs and wants.

Brown said the district has offered to share the results of surveys it will be conducting as part of the comprehensive plan update with YMCA backers.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

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