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Boys & Girls Club marks 40th anniversary

Ashon Bristol, left, plays foosball with Adri Romano in the Arlington Boys & Girls Club’s crowded games room on Jan. 18. - Kirk Boxleitner
Ashon Bristol, left, plays foosball with Adri Romano in the Arlington Boys & Girls Club’s crowded games room on Jan. 18.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — The Arlington Boys & Girls Club is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and they’re asking for the surrounding community’s support to help the club continue to serve local kids.

“This facility was built to the size of the money that was available at the time,” said Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County. “It’s actually one of the smaller clubs today. We need to nearly double its size to keep pace with this area’s growth.”

To that end, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County are conducting a fundraising campaign to expand the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, by increasing its square footage from 13,000 to 23,000, adding a second gym, updating the equipment in the games room, and adding both a new teen center and a technology center. Hadley Hall, which serves as the facility’s current teen center, would refurbished to better serve the needs of the broader community.

Between $1.3 million for construction, $100,000 for equipment and furnishings, $25,000 for the architecture and engineering, and $75,000 to provide much-needed additional parking, the total estimated cost of the renovation would be $1.5 million.

“When the Arlington Boys & Girls Club first opened in Arlington in 1974, it was just the Arlington Boys Club, and the city of Arlington had a total population of about 2,000 people,” said Bill Kinney, the unit director of the Arlington Boys & Girls Club at the Arlington Municipal Airport. “Now, 2,000 is the number of kids that we serve at this club. Even when this facility opened in 1992, the town’s population was only about 4,600 people. We’ve grown a lot since then, and there’s literally not enough room for us here now.”

Kinney started with the Arlington Boys & Girls Club as its gym supervisor on Jan. 2, 1992, the same day that its current facility at the Arlington Airport opened. As of Saturday, Jan. 18, he’s still active in the gym, serving as one of the referees of the youth basketball games during the teams’ picture day.

While Kinney recalled how the club originally opened at the Alamo building on Division Street in downtown Arlington, that now houses the Mirkwood & Shire Cafe, before it tried to fit into the storefronts of Olympic Avenue, what he’s witnessed most closely has been the heavy use that the club’s current facility has undergone, as the once-sparsely populated area surrounding the airport has turned into a hub of activity, and the city’s population has swollen to around 18,000 people.

“On picture day alone, we get 70 teams of 10 kids each,” Kinney said, in between blowing his whistle for one of the three concurrent games that were cycling through the gym on Jan. 18. “We’ll have run more than 30 games here by the time this day is done, and we need to use the gym facilities at Post Middle School and in Darrington at the same time, just to keep up with the demand. Even with them taking the pressure off of us, our floorboards are 23 years old and have already taken a beating.”

The indoor basketball courts at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club just recently received new hoops, but their electronic scoreboards are so old that Kinney and his staff have to replace their lights on a weekly basis. Moreover, the Arlington Boys & Girls Club isn’t big enough to accommodate all of its non-athletic programs either, since many of its before- and after-school programs, which used to be hosted by the former Arlington High School building on French Street, were moved at the start of this school year to Presidents Elementary.

“When we started out here, there were no after-school programs,” Kinney said. “Now, there are hundreds of kids who use those programs, just like every Saturday, we have at least a hundred kids in the games room, waiting to use our gym. The games room fills up on weekday afternoons at 5 p.m. too, when we have to kick kids out of the gym for sports practices.”

Kinney would welcome a second gymnasium on-site, especially since it wouldn’t require his staff to coordinate between satellite sites. Like Kaylee Diggs, who has an extended history of her own with the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, Kinney loves that the club is so busy, but wishes that it could serve the kids’ needs better.

“I first came here from fourth through eighth grade,” said Diggs, who’s currently enrolled in the University of Washington. “I came back when I was around 16 and a sophomore at Lakewood High School, to do stuff like referee the volleyball games. I really enjoy working with these kids. You really get to know them, and they become your little friends.”

Diggs credited the friendships that she struck up with Arlington Boys & Girls Club staff members with inspiring her to emulate their example, not only by returning to the club to serve as a staff member herself, but also by majoring in early childhood family studies at UW.

“I really owe this club a debt,” Diggs said. “I’m not the only one. If you look at the success of Arlington High School’s athletic programs over the years, I’d say a lot of that has to do with the numbers of kids that started playing sports here. You can learn a lot at this place.”

“My kids are sports kids,” said Arlington mom Kim Deisher-Allen, whose three boys and one girl have gotten ample use out of the Arlington Boys & Girls Club. “My oldest two have moved on up to the Stilly Valley programs, but my youngest two are still here. The only difference is that I’m coming here three times a week rather than five. This club started them all out in sports.”

“We want to be here for your kids for another 40 years,” Kinney said. “But we need to be able to grow with the community in order to do it.”

For more information, you can contact Kinney by phone at 360-435-4442, or via email at bkinney@bgcsc.org, or by logging onto www.bgcsc.org.

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