Mill Creek working to build new youth club

MILL CREEK — The city has a piece of land here that could potentially be used as the home of a new Boys &Girls Club. But it takes work, time and money to get one up and running, said Bill Tsoukalas, executive director for the Boys &Girls Clubs of Snohomish County.

Mill Creek officials are exploring the possibility of leasing a 10-acre property next to Freedom Field at the Mill Creek Sports Park to the club for a nominal fee, such as $1 a year. In exchange, the Boys &Girls Club would build a recreation center and offer activities for young people. The city could then piggyback on the effort and build a new all-season sports field nearby.

Tsoukalas plans give officials a realistic idea of what needs to happen to bring a new club to Mill Creek at the City Council meeting tonight. The council is expected to decide whether to continue exploring the option.

The club tailors the type of activities it provides for young people to the needs in each community. Because Mill Creek has a strong youth baseball program, its club would likely offer different activities.

“They tend to try to compliment or supplement what the local community provides rather than compete with it,” City Manager Ken Armstrong said. “They do provide a very valuable service, especially when both parents are working.”

The other cities and nonprofits that have partnered with the Boys &Girls Club of Snohomish County have brought land, money or a building to the table, Tsoukalas said. Mill Creek is off to a good start with the land offering, he said.

The property west of the Bothell-Everett Highway is some of the last remaining undeveloped space in the central part of the city. Armstrong intends to caution the City Council to consider the best use of the land before giving the club a go. Other options include selling the property for residential or commercial development and expanding the existing sports complex, he said.

If the Boys &Girls Club gets the green light, the nonprofit would likely build a new recreation center in Mill Creek. The city does not have an existing building the nonprofit could use. Unless a private partner steps up with space, the club would have to build a clubhouse.

The nonprofit’s buildings typically boast at least 18,000-square-feet. Boys &Girls Clubs usually include a gymnasium, a teen center and multipurpose areas, Tsoukalas said.

Because the nonprofit is a private organization, it is able to build at lower cost than the city. Tsoukalas estimates the Mill Creek club would cost $1.5 million to $2 million, depending on the size and the equipment inside.

“The city would get a lot out of a partnership,” Armstrong said. “There’s definitely an efficiency that can be realized by having the private sector involved.”

If the Boys &Girls Club decides to build in Mill Creek, Armstrong said, the city could build a lighted, multi-use, all-season sports field nearby. That way, the nonprofit could help cover costs for features, such as a parking lot, concession stand and restrooms.

The price of building a field remains unclear, Armstrong said. Several years ago the city got an estimate of about $9 million to build two fields.

Since then, it has been talking about splitting the cost of a $2.4 million synthetic-turf soccer field at Jackson High with the Everett School District. But the project has taken a backseat since voters turned down the district’s bond measure twice this year.

“We’re pretty content to let it sit on the backburner for now,” Armstrong said. “Exploring this option with the Boys &Girls Club needs to run its course.”

The nonprofit has to have pledges for donations before it can begin construction. Other Boys &Girls Club projects, including those in Mukilteo and Arlington, have faced long wait times. Tsoukalas said it usually takes one to two years to raise the money, and another year to build a club. The Snohomish Boys &Girls Club, however, was done in about a year.

“It depends on the community and how quickly they want it to happen,” Tsoukalas said. “We don’t have a pot of gold.”

Most of the money comes from donations from individuals, he said. Corporate and foundation support follows.

“Most people think it’s the other way around,” Tsoukalas said. “It used to be but it’s not anymore.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192;

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