New community center and aquarium recognized with awards

Eastside Community Center

Two of Metro Parks Tacoma’s biggest projects in history are earning recognition for their contributions to healthy living, volunteer service and economic development.

The park district accepted honors for the Eastside Community Center and the Pacific Seas Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, both of which opened last year. Here is a quick look at the latest awards:

  • The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department presented Metro Parks with a Healthy Communities Award for making a special effort to influence public health by building the 55,000-square-foot community center. The center features an indoor pool, gymnasium, indoor walking track, fitness areas, recording studio, and teaching kitchen, among other amenities.
  • Shalisa Hayes, who channeled grief over the death of her son into a drive to build the Eastside Community Center, has been named a recipient of the 2019 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. Hayes created two nonprofit organizations – the Billy Ray Shirley III Foundation and Mothers of Magnitude, which helps mothers who have lost a child. She pushed local, state and federal leaders to be creative and collaborative. She once followed Gov. Jay Inslee onto an elevator to persuade him to include funding for the project in his state budget proposal. It worked.
  • The Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County combined the Eastside Community Center and Pacific Seas Aquarium into one entry on its list of “Excellent 10” projects in the county last year. The community center was recognized for providing much-needed resources for the Eastside, while the aquarium instantly became a go-to place for area residents and visitors to learn about oceans and marine life. The aquarium is expected to be a big draw in the region’s tourism industry.

“Last year was probably the biggest year in our history as we opened these two incredible facilities within a couple months of each other,” said Aaron Pointer, president of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners. “The breadth of these awards – healthy living, volunteerism, and supporting our local economy – shows the diversity of impact we aim to have in our community. Neither of these projects would have been possible without the strong support of Tacoma voters, who approved the 2014 park bond that provided much of the funding.”