Folks turn out to hear center info

Exterior view from Kruse Way shows skatepark in front. Wood veneer is used to add accents, building on the facility’s straight lines, adding louvers that play on light.

About 300 people turned out to a Lake Oswego forum March 7 to hear details of a proposed community center, see early designs and glimpse rough numbers on future costs.

Despite local resistance and a ballot initiative that could prompt a sale of the prospective site, those in the standing-room-only crowd included mainly parents, seniors, library enthusiasts and others interested in learning more about the plan.

That group attended an hour-long presentation by BOORA architects at the West End Building on Kruse Way. Those with questions took them to topic-oriented stations staffed by city employees and members of the Community Center Steering Committee.

Those who talked with the Lake Oswego Review during the event said cost was a concern and, in the end, could be a deal-breaker for a proposed community center.

However, most saw potential in the recreational investment, each naming a variety of reasons.

Madison Egan, 11, said she thought the community center could be 'a pretty cool little area to hang out.'

If a strategy for a community center moves forward as planned, Madison will be a high school freshman by the time construction is complete.

Gesturing to her eight- and six-year-old siblings she said, 'They'll probably benefit a little more from this.'

Parents seemed to take future recreation for young kids to heart.

Karen Egan, mother of Madison and the two younger children, said she sees the community center as an opportunity for Lake Oswego to make good on its family oriented image, capitalizing on the city's reputation for strong schools by offering family recreation as well.

For her own family, Egan envisions the community center as a safe place to divide recreational interests, with her children spending time at an outdoor skate park and indoor swimming pool. Parents, she said, could work out nearby.

'I think the community will be extremely surprised at how much of a resource this facility can be, like the Southwest Community Center (in Portland),' she said.

Michael Earp, a 31-year resident of Lake Oswego, has one child in junior high.

But it wasn't family recreation that interests Earp in a potential community center. He looks to the facility's proposed indoor track and other amenities as workout opportunities for he and his wife.

With so much talk about financing, Earp said, he would like to see a capital campaign offer support to the community center idea. He suggested it might be time for business and private supporters to make their interests known.

'That could be part of it, too. Maybe somebody could be really proud to help the community get this going,' he said.

'It's crazy to see such a wealthy community have to drive to do these things,' he said.

In fact, a number of people who spoke with the Review at the forum already use the Southwest Community Center in Portland.

Mina Bacigalupi, a mother and library supporter, wondered whether those prospective users of a local community center would outnumber the affluent Lake Oswegans who enjoy membership in exclusive private clubs.

'If it gives us what we want and what we need, I think it would be worth the expense,' Bacigalupi said.

While she believes local children need more indoor recreational opportunities here, she's also in a group that's very concerned about how Lake Oswego will meet growing library demands.

Bacigalupi's comments underscore the challenge city leaders will face in selecting the right mix of amenities in a proposed community center.

The project's steering committee sought written comments at the forum and received 119 responses.

As the committee charts a course to a recommendation to the city council on June 1, a final public forum is set take feedback again in May, after input from this last session is incorporated into plans.