STAR Center Takes Center Stage of Recreation Hub

Years of planning and months of construction have ended. Classes are now in session as Metro Parks’ new South Tacoma Activities and Recreation Center – STAR Center – opened May 19 with a showcase of fun.

Complete with a fun run, ceremonial flag raising, a flash mob and music, STAR Center’s playground and dance rooms are now active, with children laughing and adults hovering around demonstration kitchen stovetops now that the formality of a grand opening is over.

The 32,000-square-foot center in South Tacoma offers rentable hall spaces, a new music and dance studio, a teaching kitchen, a fitness room and an indoor/outdoor children’s playground that is primed for play dates and toddler parties.

The $16 million building, at the corner of South 66th and Adams streets, has activities for all ages and serves as the anchor facility of a regional recreation complex that also includes Gray Middle School and the Boys and Girls Clubs’ Topping Hope Center, which will share gym and activity space to create a “recreational hub” that tops more than 100,000 square feet of space. The combined facilities span some 75 acres of sports fields and recreational offerings under the umbrella name South End Recreational Adventure Campus. More amenities are on the way as well.

The building has dedicated classroom, art, theater and activity spaces for its array of programs as well as rentable meeting and event space. It also is home to Metro Parks’ roster of activity offerings for differently-abled and handicapped people. Seemingly every activity that would follow the center’s mission of “keeping the community healthy and active, to give children a safe place to play, and to provide economic opportunities to the region” is on the list or in the works. 

And the building is “green” as well thanks to its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver rating. Features like natural stormwater collection ponds, floors heated by ground water and skylights keep energy costs down, for example, while several of the pieces of fitness equipment actually feed into the building’s power system every time a patron spins a rotation.

“You can cycle and put power back into the system,” Metro Parks Communications Manager Nancy Johnson said.

Depending on funding, future activities in the works will include an outdoor adventure park, a ropes course, a climbing wall, bike trails, a zip line through a grove of trees, a rope bridge, a visitor center and a concession stand alongside baseball, softball and soccer fields with other patches of grass carved out for cricket matches and outdoor grilling. Other outdoor attractions in the works include a sprayground for children to cool themselves during the summer, an event pavilion, playground equipment and a community garden. Plans for a farmers market are also in the works. Those attractions are part of the next phase of the site’s development, but the first phase – the building – is ready for action.

The activities, programs and classes will be funded through Metro Parks and individual activity fees as well as sale of monthly STAR Passes that will provide cardholders with free use of some activities and discounts on others. The passes cost $63 a month for families or $26 for adults, $5 for teens and $15 for young children. Discounts are available for military, veterans and seniors. Day passes are also available for casual users. While many of the activities are free, some programs require additional funding because of materials and expenses. This pay-to-play model has been adopted as standard practice around the country, but has been slower to come in Washington. For comparison, YMCA family memberships cost $122 a month.


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