Lifestyle

Community Center plays host to a multitude of events

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The Community Center at Mercer View (CCMV) is as busy as ever. Almost two years after the $12.4 million center reopened as a brand new facility, the building is bustling with activity.

“From the very start, the new center has had a positive impact on the community,” said manager Diane Mortenson. “More and more people are hearing about us, and more are dropping in. It’s safe to say that we’re continuing to grow.”

Today, the glossy center boasts a jumble of new programs — from senior exercise classes to summer kids’ camps — and a growing reputation with locals and off-Islanders alike. A good proportion of the users are from Seattle and the Eastside.

“Because we’re so centrally located — right off I-90 — it’s a huge bonus. People from off the Island can get here so easily, whether it’s for a company meeting or just working out,” said Mortenson, who has served as operations and staff manager since January. Prior to this, the director worked as the CCMV coordinator.

The most popular facility, according to Mortenson, is the center’s 10,000-square-foot basketball gym.

“We get more calls for the basketball gym than anything else,” she said. “Especially with kids from off the Island. They really love our gym.”

When it comes to finding a modern gym open to the public, there are few options on Mercer Island, Mortenson pointed out. “There’s the Boys and Girls Club, the North Mercer Gym and the Jewish Community Center, but that’s about it.”

And then there are the CCMV patrons; those who use the center regularly and have for years. In fact, the veteran organizations keep the center going, Mortenson said. “The [Mercer Island] Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce hold their weekly and monthly meetings here, and so does the Mercer Island Sister City Association. These regular rentals are a huge help.”

Economically, the center has no trouble staying afloat. Revenues depend mostly on renting out the center’s banquet hall and meeting rooms, Mortenson said. The new CCMV has four conference rooms — accommodating groups up to 49 — and a giant multi-purpose room, called the Mercer Room, that can be divided into three parts, allowing for roundtables, weddings and everything in between.

Chip Corder, finance director for the City of Mercer Island, expects the CCMV to clear about $270,000 this year. As of July, the center has earned $107,800 from room rentals this year, Mortenson added, mostly thanks to the popular Mercer Room.

Rates for the Mercer Room vary depending on the day of the week and whether the guest is a resident or non-resident: Islanders pay $40 an hour on weekends, while off-Islanders pay $55. So far this year, the Mercer Room has brought in $34,600 from residents and $29,115 from non-residents.

Even for off-Islanders, the Mercer Room is cheaper than most Seattle and Eastside options and attracts guests from far and wide. At times, this can serve as a double-edged sword.

Two weeks ago, the CCMV hosted a wedding party organized by a young couple from West Seattle. Fresh out of college, the soon-to-be weds told the Reporter that they chose the Mercer Room for its affordable rental price. They were thrilled not only to save money, but to celebrate their wedding day in a brand-new dance hall overlooking Lake Washington. Unfortunately, the feeling wasn’t mutual.

“We were here all night cleaning up after them,” said a receptionist who wished to remain anonymous. “The guests were wandering off into the grass area and parking lot with open containers of alcohol, which was our biggest concern. The next morning we found broken bottles of Jack Daniels all over the parking lot. Who goes off to drink Jack Daniels in the back lot during a wedding?”

Apparently, young people do. It’s no secret of economics — affordable prices attract young customers. But to be fair, the center can’t predict the manners of their guests. They can only learn from them.

“That wedding was rare. And they weren’t rude people, they were just very social and young,” the secretary said.

A few bad experiences aside, Mortenson says the guests who frequent the community center are not only courteous, but a joy to work with.

And long-time CCMV patron Kisi Goode agrees. “The staff is absolutely wonderful, and those who use the center are so friendly. It’s just nice to be there,” she said.

After living on the Island for 57 years, Goode recently moved to Factoria. Yet this hasn’t changed her loyalty to CCMV.

“I just get into my car and say ‘go’ and I’m off to the community center,” she joked.

For the past eight years, Goode has attended an enhanced fitness class at the CCMV, a class that she has seen nearly triple in the past two years.

“Since [the new center], Enhanced Fitness has grown in popularity. When I started, there was only one class. Now there are three,” she said, adding that the new facility had much to do with this. “Now we’ve got a room with mirrors, air conditioning and everything. Plus, you can’t forget the view.”

Meanwhile, Parks and Recreation administrators are still looking for ways to improve.

“Right now we’re still new, but we need a market plan for when we’re no longer new, one that will keep us in the forefront for when the CCMV starts to wear down,” Mortenson said, speaking on behalf of the CCMV team.

But for now, they’re exactly where they want to be.

“People tell us that we’re a couple of steps above the rest,” the director said. “They compliment us on the quality of the building and the friendliness of our staff. It’s wonderful to hear.”

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