The ‘Y’ aims to become a ‘third place’ for peninsulas


Rodika Tollefson, KP News

Tom Taylor, who has promoted the peninsula’s Y for twodecades, and is YMCA’s Volunteer Chair, chats with guestsLori and Rick Larson. Photo by Hugh McMillan

The Gig Harbor Family YMCA will open in August, bringing to fruition a dream that has been in the making for more than two decades. In addition to offering a variety of opportunities for members, the Y will also bring several programs open to the entire community.

Located in Gig Harbor North (near the new Costco planned to open this fall), the 74,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility is being described as one of the best YMCAs in the nation. In a bit of a departure from an ordinary YMCA, this one was designed to be a community gathering place, not just a location for fitness activities.

The design team traveled around the country to look at “the best of the best” facilities, according to Darcy Celletti, the executive director of the Gig Harbor branch. The result was a design that features several gathering places, from a community room and a birthday party room to two lounges with fireplaces. The “community gathering place” idea is new for YMCA, Celletti says, but “it’s very intentional.”

Key Pen resident Maureen Borba, associate director forGig Harbor’s Y, during a “hard hat tour” of the Y in June.Photo by Hugh McMillan

Michelle Rogers-Moore, who works in the newly developed communications department, compares the intention to the concept of a “third place.” First coined by Ray Oldenburg in his book “The Great, Good Place,” the idea for a “third place” is to provide an opportunity for social nourishing and socializing outside of one’s work or home.

To put that idea to work, one of the programs the Y will host will be teen nights on Friday or Saturday, free to all kids regardless of membership. “It’s a way to get kids off the street and give them activities to do on Friday (or Saturday),” said Maureen Borba, a Key Pen resident and the Y’s local associate executive director.

For members, there will be plenty of choices for hanging out, and, of course, engaging in health-related activities. Two outdoor (enclosed) racquetball courts, three pools, a full gymnasium, a wellness center with cardiovascular and strength equipment, a free-weights room, two multi-purpose rooms for yoga, aerobics etc, a climbing wall, family changing rooms and an indoor track are among the amenities. A teaching kitchen will hold healthy cooking classes; an introductory wellness center will help those returning or new to fitness to work out in a nonintimidating environment for 12 weeks while getting one on one staff help. MultiCare Health System will have a 2,600-square-foot space for physical therapy and other wellness programs.

A photo from the second floor into the entry foyer to thefacility gives an idea of the scope of the grand structuredue to open for business in mid-August. Photo by Hugh McMillan

Youngsters will be delighted to know one of the pools will have the popular water slide and built-in splash toys; one of the pools is “zero entry” (emulating beach access), with warm water. Other kids’ amenities include a teen center, a “no adults allowed” drop-in zone where teens can hang out, do homework, or play TRAZER games (virtual reality-type games); a nursery with outside playground for up to age 6; and a soft play area for kids 2 to 10 years of age where parents are welcome to join in the play. A family workout area will allow children 10 to 15 years old to work out with their parents.

“We know that 70 percent of people who come to the Y won’t be successful on their own, so we look at creating successful programs (to help them),” Celletti said.

The Gig Harbor YMCA is part of the YMCA of Tacoma-Pierce County, which also operates Camp Seymour on the Key Peninsula and has before and after school daycare programs at many Peninsula School District Schools. The local Y has been in the dream stages for more than two decades, and has received overwhelming support from community, sponsors and investors, many of whom are from the other side of the Narrows Bridge. The capital campaign, which had a goal of $6 million, raised $13 million — more than the total of $12.4 million raised over the 123-year history of the Tacoma-Pierce County Y.

“This is a big deal” for the Y and the community, said CEO and President Bob Ecklund. “We couldn’t have dreamed so much community coming together,” he said.

The YMCA is the largest nonprofit community service organization in the country, as well as the largest youth employer nationwide. The mission-based organization was founded 150 years ago, initially as a Bible study and prayer program as a substitute for life on the streets (YMCA stands for Young Men’s Christian Association). Financial assistance is offered to people in need who qualified, and the Gig Harbor Y estimates that at least 10 percent of members will be on financial assistance.

“This will bring the whole community together, rich and poor, young and old, thick and thin, all races and religions,” Ecklund said.

For more information about the Gig Harbor Family YMCA, which is planned to open in August, visit