The team that will help set the Sunset Recreation Center’s course convened last week with the goal to establish a clear vision and key objectives for the project.

Evan Eleff, a partner at Sports Facilities Advisory, a Clearwater, Florida-based company, came to Seaside with Suzanne Fisher Reeder, a financial consultant, and architect Scott Edwards.

“This is really one of the most important meetings that will happen,” Eleff said in a planning session at the recreation center. “Our goal for this planning session is to really define the parameters of the project, make sure that we’re all moving in the same direction, understanding your roles.”

Sports Facilities Advisory and Scott Edwards Architecture, a Portland-based architectural firm, were chosen based on firm size and structure, project understanding, firm experience, work plan, proposed staff and fee proposal.

“Our goal is to have as much interaction as possible,” Eleff said. “And the best thing for us would be to have constructive differences of opinion. What we really hope is to get a 360-degree perspective of the opportunities and challenges relating to this project.”

The consultants will be working from a 20-week timeline, from the project kickoff to the final report.

The park district purchased the former Broadway Middle School for $2.15 million in January. The school, along with Gearhart Elementary and Seaside High School, was among Seaside School District properties relocated to the new Spruce Drive location outside of the tsunami inundation zone.

Since the purchase, the park district has hosted the Pacific Basketball League, child care programs and leased a portion of the space to the Northwest Regional Education Service District, which moves in in early August.

“In a design sense, the flexibility component is more critical than trying to define what could happen in the space,” Cannon Beach Mayor Sam Steidel said.

Although Cannon Beach residents are not members of the park district, many use the Sunset Pool, and he envisioned future partnership opportunities.

He asked the planners to “leave themselves as open as possible” to potential building uses using a phased approach to determining community needs.

In talking to community stakeholders, Monica Steele, the assistant Clatsop County manager, said “the topic that comes up every time is child care.”

Steele asked the advisory group to consider the building for child care or a “place to get them out of the house,” particularly at the age where children are vulnerable to depression and self-harm.

Eleff said child care was a likely phase one goal. “It would be shocking to me if we don’t come back with that as a key component,” he said. “It’s a primary need. And it’s probably the fastest way to use this building effectively.”

The recreation center’s future is “exactly our mission” of improving the health and economic vitality of communities through sports, recreation and wellness, he said.

“We want to understand first what you want to do, and what the opportunity is,” Eleff said. “Second, how that can and should work from an operational perspective on the financial feasibility of covering the cost of operating and whatever else there needs to be.

“It’s meant to really lay the groundwork and set the foundation,” he added. “We don’t want to produce a study — we want to produce a path forward.”

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