Bethel Residents Urge City To Fund Community Gym

Nov 15, 2017

Phase I of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Fitness Center, Bethel's pool, opened in 2014. Now, residents are urging the city to prioritize Phase II of the proposed project.
Credit Dean Swope/KYUK

At a Monday evening city committee meeting, Bethel residents urged the city to fund Phase II of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Fitness Center and prioritize building a community gym.

Bev Hoffman loves basketball and played on a series of rec teams here in her twenties. "I started out with a group called the Sea Air Ravens," she said. "I played for ONC; I played for KuC. And then the last years [I played with] whoever would take me," she added with a laugh. She still shoots hoops whenever she can.

Basketball is a big part of the social scene here, but Bethel residents don’t have anywhere to play when winter rolls around, which drives Hoffman a little crazy. The local schools have some great courts, but the school’s sports teams are usually practicing on them. Rec teams used to play the occasional pickup game at the armory, but that facility was damaged in the Kilbuck campus fire two years ago.

So for the past 30 years, Hoffman and other residents have been campaigning for a community gym. The YK Fitness Center was a win for them; Bethel community members had wanted an indoor pool for years, and the center was built through a city initiative that was fueled by grassroots efforts.

Now, residents are pushing for Phase II of the YK Fitness Center. It would include indoor basketball and volleyball courts, as well as a few multi-purpose facilities where community members could come and work out together.

Several advocates for Phase II attended the City’s Parks, Recreation, Aquatic Health and Safety Center Committee meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Monday. Michelle DeWitt, who chairs the Committee, said that the state’s current fiscal crisis makes getting funding for projects like this challenging. Visible community support for the community gym is important. "There will need to be a groundswell of community advocacy in order to take on Phase II," she said.

As for Hoffman, she says that she’s happy that Bethel finally has an indoor pool and just hopes that it doesn’t take another 30 years to get an indoor basketball court.

"Our youth deserve this," she said. "You know, people don’t stay here because we have a great jail, or a great shelter. It’s because we have not only access to beautiful country, but beautiful facilities that let us release all those stresses in our life."