King County recently awarded $3.6 million in sports-related grants to local government agencies and nonprofits, including more than $500,000 for Vashon.
The grants, announced late last month, are part of the county’s Youth and Amateur Sports Grants program, meant to increase access to healthy lifestyles. The Vashon Park District was awarded $250,000 for work at Agren Park and $36,000 to support programming at the skate park at the Burton Adventure Recreation Center. The county also awarded $250,000 to the Vashon Lacrosse Club, working with the Vashon Island Soccer Club and the park district, for lights at the VES Fields.
At Agren Park — a 30-acre park with sports fields, woods and walking trails — the park district plans to strip down the fields, add drainage, regrade and reseed them. Executive Director Elaine Ott-Rocheford said this work is important as the fields have sink holes and divots in them and can be hazardous for people playing on them. Also, they become waterlogged in the rainy season and need to be closed six months out of the year. The work on the fields will likely begin next September, following the adult softball season and before the fall rain. She added that she is confident the field work can be done for the grant amount. If there is sufficient money left over, the district plans to regrade the road leading into the park and the parking lot. The final priority for the money is to fence the outfield so that sports teams do not lose balls as easily as they do currently.
At the skate park, which includes an outdoor bowl and an indoor skating facility, the county grant will provide funds for programming and staff. Ott-Rocherford said she plans to hire some part-time people who will facilitate camps, lessons and events there.
She noted that the board is planning on bringing more programming back to the district, and this grant fits well with that goal, but it serves another purpose as well. The park has experienced a lot of vandalism, nighttime break-ins and drug and alcohol use, and she hopes that having a staff presence there some of the time will be a deterrent.
At the park district’s VES Fields, the island’s lacrosse club, working with the soccer club, applied for the funds to install lights. Former park district commissioner, current soccer club board member and lacrosse dad David Hackett spearheaded the grant application. Lights, he said recently, have been a long-identified need of the soccer club, which plays in the darkest months of the year.
When the VES Fields were built, the infrastructure for the lights was installed, and poles with lights will be able to be erected there in one day, he said. The grant money will cover the majority of the expense, and the soccer and lacrosse clubs will cover the remaining $60,000 to $70,000. He added that the soccer club has been anticipating this cost for some time and has some money in the bank to be dedicated. Additionally, each year the club spends $5,000 to $6,000 to rent a diesel generator to light the fields, and that expense will no longer occur.
The soccer club also offers futsal (indoor soccer) in the offseason as a fundraiser. This year, 260 people are playing, he said, including 70 adults.
He noted that lighting technology has changed since the fields were installed, and the clubs will use LED lights that are energy efficient and will light the fields without spilling onto neighboring property. He added that the coming changes to three of the island’s fields — at the high school, Agren Park and VES — will provide much-needed playing space, including for island adults, who sometimes could not get access to fields that were closed or too busy with youth players.
“There will be great field infrastructure around the island and more opportunities for folks to play their sports in off times of the year,” he said.