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Originally published Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 5:30 PM

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A fond farewell to community's hub, lifeline

Hundreds of people gathered for a send-off at the Rainier Beach Community Center on Saturday afternoon, recalling what the 35-year-old facility has meant to them and their children. It closes on Sunday and will be torn down next spring to make way for a $25 million community center, lap pool and recreational pool with a water slide and lazy river.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Javivione Hawthorne was 7 years old when she took basketball camp from Gary Payton and other SuperSonics at the Rainier Beach Community Center and Pool.

Now she takes water aerobics classes there and has her own 7-year-old daughter, Javaughn Weems, who dances with a hip-hop class offered by the center — or did until Saturday, when the dancers performed at the facility for the last time. It closes on Sunday and will be torn down next spring to make way for a $25 million community center, lap pool and recreational pool with a water slide and lazy river.

"Maybe she'll do cheerleading or a different sport," Hawthorne said of the long wait before the center reopens in early 2013.

Hundreds of people gathered for a send-off at the community center on Saturday afternoon, recalling what the 35-year-old facility has meant to them and their children.

Donna Stefanik said she and her daughter, Rose Sanders, will follow hip-hop and aerobics coach Tyron Crosby to Rainier Community Center a few miles north.

Rose, who is 11, has taken his classes since she was 4. Crosby teaches the children respect for themselves and each other, Stefanik said, and encourages them to stay in school.

"Sometimes in this area, you hear, 'those kids, they're troublemakers,' " she said. Crosby's classes "are a living example of what can happen when people work together and parents get involved in what their kids do."

Crosby's mother, Tammy White, who attended the last hip-hop performance on Saturday, said the center was vital to her son's upbringing while she struggled with her own issues.

"This community center raised him," White said.

Parents of competitive swimmers gathered near the pool on Saturday to remember past swim meets and examine swimmers' time records on a scoreboard they are sure will be preserved before demolition begins. Rainier Beach is referring its swimmers to Medgar Evers Pool in the Central District and Southwest Pool near White Center.

"I hate to see the building go. My kids grew up here," said JoAnn Kaneko, whose son Tomo Kaneko-Hall still holds numerous records on the scoreboard.

Her younger son, TsukiKaneko-Hall, is 27 now and teaches swimming lessons at the pool.

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Martha Winther, coordinator for the community center, said parts of the building are falling apart.

It measures about 72,000 square feet, "a lot of it unused," said Stan Lokting of ARC Architects. The new facility will have 48,000 square feet, "more intensely used," with additional parking and an outdoor terrace.

The new building will include big windows on three sides, including along parts of the pool and gym, which will look out onto trees. The architects hope that natural light and ventilation will help the new facility attain LEED Gold certification, which is a third-party recognition of sustainable building practices.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

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