ARLINGTON — A project to add space for children and teens to play in the Stillaguamish Valley is in the home stretch of a $3 million fundraising campaign.
The Arlington Boys &Girls Club and Stilly Valley Little League launched the Stilly 2000 campaign in January. The goal is for 2,000 people to donate $250 each, for a total of $500,000. That would be tacked on to $2.4 million the organizations already have received from the state, county and local donations prior to the Stilly 2000 campaign, said Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of the Boys &Girls Club of Snohomish County.
The money is for the expansion of the Arlington club and an overhaul of nearby Quake Fields, where the little leaguers play.
With the initial $2.4 million, the groups have enough to build a second full-sized gym at the club and add two more fields at Quake, which has two existing fields. The money from the Stilly 2000 campaign would go toward another half gym and a new teen center at the club along with artificial turf on all four ball fields.
“The idea is to get parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, businesses, teachers, everybody to participate,” Tsoukalas said. “We hope that by the time that spring sports are over, which is right around the time that school lets out, we will have reached 2,000.”
That means they’ll wrap up the campaign in June. Construction is expected to start in June or July.
The goal is to have the new gym open by January 2017, in time for next basketball season. The fields should be done around the same time.
The work is expected to double the size of the 13,000-square-foot Boys &Girls Club. The club moved there in 1992 and the space hasn’t kept up with the growth in membership, Tsoukalas said.
When the first Arlington club opened downtown in 1974, the population of the city was about 2,000 people, he said. Now, the club has more than 2,000 members.
“It just demonstrates the reason why we need the extra elbow room,” he said. “It’s the only game in town. The fields and the Boys &Girls Club complement each other and kids go back a forth between programs. It’s been that way for a long time.”
Most of the project is paid for with state dollars. The Legislature last year set aside $3.83 million in the state budget for the Stilly Valley Youth Project, which includes work in Arlington and Darrington.
“The real thrust of all this, the real goal, is to keep kids busy and keep them in a safe place and have stuff that draws them there,” Tsoukalas said.
As of this week, the organizations are about halfway to their $500,000 goal in the Stilly 2000 campaign, including an estimated $160,000 from an upcoming auction fundraiser, Tsoukalas said. They’re looking for more donations. Donors get their names on a replica basketball floor designed to be displayed in the new gym and on a replica baseball field to be put up at Quake Fields.
“My kids all started playing at the Boys &Girls Club, and it’s great to have this partnership right next door,” said Greg Dunc, president of the Stilly Valley Little League. “The first goal is to keep the kids active. I understand that not every kid is a baseball or a softball kid, so that’s why the partnership with the Boys &Girls Club is so important.”
The league has about 350 kids involved from ages 6 to 16. Putting in two more fields means it could host baseball and softball tournaments in Arlington and have more teams practicing at once without turning to homemade baseball diamonds in families’ fields.
“With the artificial turf, we would pretty much eliminate rain-outs, which would be fantastic for the kids,” Dunc said.
The Stilly 2000 campaign is a way for people to leave a legacy for young athletes in the community.
“We’re just trying to generate as much excitement for youth athletics in our area as we can and let everyone know that they can be a part of it,” Dunc said.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate, call the Boys &Girls Club at 360-435-4442, stop by 18513 59th Ave. NE or go online to bgcsc.org/stilly2000donate.