Whatcom County soccer players will soon see major upgrades to Northwest Soccer Park, changes that could boost the local economy.
The soccer park will get two new artificial turf fields, lights and a scoreboard that are expected to be ready by mid-April, Whatcom Sports & Recreation announced Tuesday, Dec. 15, during an event at the facility.
Washington state will provide $2 million for the project, and Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery will donate $700,000. The donation from Phillips 66 is the largest known gift the Ferndale refinery has made in Whatcom County, and comes with an agreement that includes renaming the facility Phillips 66 Soccer Park.
The two artificial turf fields will replace a grass section on the west side of the park, near the concessionaire and office building.
Adding lights and the artificial turf fields means soccer and other sports can be played year-round and after dark, helping ease scheduling pressures that come with the popular sport, said Lance Calloway, executive director of Whatcom Sports and Recreation.
The fields are currently home to Whatcom County Youth Soccer Association and the Whatcom County Adult Soccer Association, which together have nearly 10,000 players. Typically, the 13 soccer fields at the park are not used in the winter months.
$700,000 Amount donated by Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, the largest known single gift by the company in Whatcom County
The soccer park, which is near the intersection of Northwest Drive and Smith Road, also plays host to regional tournaments, including the Baker Blast. The Baker Blast tournament is one of the largest events in the county when it comes to filling hotel rooms, with about 185 teams participating in the event, Calloway said.
He said the soccer park plans to host the national Adult Soccerfest 2018 tournament, put on by the U.S. Adult Soccer Association.
The soccer park’s popularity was a factor in gaining support to fund it through the Legislature, said state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.
“This is one of those projects that can benefit the most people,” said Ericksen, who was at the park for Tuesday’s announcement. “It really ups the game for Whatcom County to have lit fields out here.”
While mainly used for soccer, the turf fields will also be available for a variety of sports that have a difficult time finding available fields, including lacrosse, Boys & Girls Club football, ultimate Frisbee, and high school athletic programs, Calloway said.
Funding for the project was put together over the course of a few years. Phillips 66 was motivated to make its large donation because the project improves the community, said Rich Harbison, Phillip 66’s Ferndale refinery manager.
The company said previous work with Whatcom Sports and Recreation were positive experiences.
“It gave us confidence that they could hit the goals they set for this project,” Harbison said.
The first soccer fields were installed in the late 1980s when the county began renting the area to what was then the Whatcom Soccer Commission. Participation grew about 15 percent a year, so the soccer organization added fields, hitting its current size about 15 years ago, said Chet Lackey, who is on the board of Whatcom Sports & Recreation. The nonprofit organization also operates Bellingham Sportsplex and Civic Complex.