By Ian Ferguson
After years of planning and a hiatus during the economic recession, a community pavilion for the Blaine branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County is once again moving forward.
Architects are in the process of drawing new designs for the facility, which will be located just east of the Blaine Senior Center. Project managers expect to break ground in April.
The project gained new life when the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on building community recreational facilities for youth, donated $90,000 and agreed to take on a directing role in the project. Luke Ridnour, professional NBA basketball player and Blaine native, connected the project’s organizers with the foundation after he hosted a basketball camp and donated the proceeds to the cause in August 2014.
Prior plans called for an open-air recreation facility, but the new plans call for an enclosed structure, said Heather Powell, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County.
“The stakeholder committee that has stayed involved with this project over the long term agreed that an enclosed structure would align better with how we saw the facility being used, especially in terms of how the Boys & Girls Club is going to secure that environment to make it safe for our kids,” Powell said.
Original plans called for a structure with a 4,000 square-foot footprint.
“The new designs will be close to that. We expect to see new drawings soon, possibly by mid-March,” said Blaine City Manager Dave Wilbrecht.
Doug Landsem Architect AIA, based in Bellingham, is the architectural firm working on the drawings. While the plans have changed to include walls, the purpose of the structure has not changed, Powell said.
“The purpose is for recreation, for providing a place for healthy lifestyle habits to be developed and to promote an active lifestyle for kids and other people in the community,”
Origins of the project date back to 2011, with discussions between the Blaine Community/Senior Center, the Whatcom Community Foundation, the Blaine branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County, the city of Blaine, Rotary Club of Whatcom County North, Reichhardt & Ebe Engineering, Inc. and individual community members.
Mel Hollinger, a longtime Rotary Club of Whatcom County North member, donated the lead gift to kick off fundraising, and he and local realtor Mike Kent, another donor, co-chaired the capital campaign.
A total of $387,000 has been raised for the project, and that amount constitutes the total project budget. The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation has taken a lead role and is working with Doug Landsem Architect AIA to develop plans that fit within that budget, Powell said.
“The quality of facilities that the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation builds is outstanding. They’re experts, they’re invested in making sure that whatever their name is associated with is top-notch and we’re thrilled that we get to be the benefactor of that. We appreciate Luke Ridnour inviting them into this project,” Powell said.
Wilbrecht said stakeholders are working out how the community will share the space.
“There would likely be a use permit, similar to how the Blaine Community/Senior Center space is administered,”
The pavilion space will be available to the community after the hours of the Boys & Girls Club.
“A lot of the folks that use the senior program are with nonprofits, and we’re anticipating that a lot of those same groups will be interested in this new space,” Wilbrecht said.
Around 80 children regularly attending the Blaine branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County use a smaller indoor space than what is being proposed. On rainy days, children are confined indoors without much room for active recreation, Powell said.
“It’s tight when they’re all in there in the current space we have, and this project will more than double our available space. We see huge opportunity to be able to expand our programs to more recreational-type activities, and we’re thrilled at the prospect of getting this built and being able to use it,” Powell said.
“The people who have been working on this for a long time, and there are many of them, are really excited about this, especially after it took a lull during the economic recession,” Wilbrecht said.
Along with the proposed school bond, the playground project on Marine Drive and other community projects, Wilbrecht said the community seems to be getting more involved in local projects.
“A lot of great things are going to be happening, and this is one of them,” Wilbrecht said.