VEGA gymnastics academy expanding to Washougal

New facility will be located in Washougal industrial park

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The Camas-based Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy (VEGA) is turning 20 later this year. To celebrate, its leaders are giving their students and families a gift — a long-awaited third facility.

Port of Camas-Washougal commissioners approved a contract March 20, that allows VEGA to lease Suite 107 in Building 20 at the Port’s industrial park. The academy will use the 9,900-foot space for team gymnastics training, according to founder and general manager Candace Miller.

“We’re calling it the ‘team training gym,’” she said. “Everybody’s super excited about this next move. It’s going to be great for the kids, and it’s going to be great for the families.”

VEGA is hoping to open the new gymnasium in June, according to Miller.

“The biggest challenge for us right now is coming up with the best floor plan for all of the equipment because that dictates the equipment that’s ordered and the arrival of things,” she said. “We do have some equipment ordered already, and it’ll start arriving in a week or two. We’ve got to paint, we have to get some bleachers in there, and we’ve got to move our lockers over. But it’s mostly dependent on equipment arrival. Originally, we were thinking (that we could open) in May, but that might have been a little ambitious.”

VEGA currently provides gymnastics, dance, and preschool classes to more than 1,000 children at two Camas locations — a gymnastics and preschool facility on 10th Avenue (also known as the “Armory”), and a performing arts studio on Northeast Third Avenue.

The Port location will benefit the academy’s recreational gymnastics program, which currently serves about 630 students and has “a couple hundred more on the waitlist,” according to Miller.

“To be honest, on the gymnastics side of things, we’ve been space-constrained,” she said. “Now there’ll be more space for all those kids. For starters, we’re going to move just our upper-level teams (to the industrial park), and they will be there 10 to 20 hours a week, so it’s not just a body, but the hours that that body is there that’s going to make a really big difference at the Armory. We’re giving the team families an improved space, and we’re giving all the rec families the opportunity to actually enroll and get off those waitlists and have more space to move around the gyms.”

Miller said VEGA leaders had been “looking on and off for the past 10 years” to expand, but didn’t find the right fit until they came across the industrial park location.

“For a while we looked for one facility that could house everything, but there’s just not a whole lot available in this area for the scope of everything that we needed to do, so then we added the dance studio,” she said. “Last fall, we were actually talking about possibly expanding somehow at the Armory, (but we) realized that it was really not feasible. (We knew that) if we were going to continue to grow at all — and there is the demand there for it, no doubt about that — then we’d have to look outside of our current spaces. We just kept looking, and the timing was absolutely perfect for (the industrial park location) to open up.”

The Building 20 space features several amenities, including a 24-foot-ceiling, vault runway space, and three large bay doors, that attracted VEGA leaders.

“It’s gorgeous. It’s just what we need,” Miller said. “Our requirements for space are very unique. We needed a ceiling (tall enough for) the higher equipment, such as the men’s rings. We needed a flex space, not commercial retail, that was big and open and very level. The rec program is really well suited for the Armory, and this new space is great for our teams.”

Port leaders spoke favorably about the lease during the Commission’s March 20 meeting.

“The good thing about VEGA is that they will help to boost synergies with other tenants,” the Port’s business development director, Derek Jaeger, said. “Parents will come in and drop off their kids for the program, then maybe hang out at 54-40 Brewing or Recluse Brew Works.”

“I agree, the synergies can be great for parents,” Port Commissioner Cassi Marshall said. “If they want to kill an hour, they can go for a walk on the trail. There’s a lot of good things about this location for families.”

The commissioners questioned VEGA’s plans for parent drop-off and pick-up, noting the parking situation at the academy’s Armory location can be hectic at best and chaotic at worst.

Miller assured them that won’t be the case at Building 20: “We really don’t have any concern,” she said. “I think once they realized we weren’t going to be carbon-copying what we’re doing at the Armory, (they felt better about it). Those classes turn over every 45 to 60 minutes. … We’ve got over 600 kids in that program. The upper-level teams that were moving down to the Port, parents will drop them off and then they come back four hours later. It’s a really different model for drop-off and pick-up. There won’t be nearly as much action, no constant traffic at all. And we’re only going to move those upper-level teams. That seemed to really make them think, ‘Oh, this isn’t going to be a repeat of the Armory.’”

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