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Bellingham Sportsplex needs repairs. They might have the answer

Whatcom Sports & Recreation hopes to buy Bellingham’s Sportsplex

A nonprofit that runs the ice skating, soccer and hockey programs at the Sportsplex is asking the city of Bellingham, Wash., to sell the building to it so more than $1 million in repairs and improvements can be done.
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A nonprofit that runs the ice skating, soccer and hockey programs at the Sportsplex is asking the city of Bellingham, Wash., to sell the building to it so more than $1 million in repairs and improvements can be done.

The organization that runs the ice skating, soccer and hockey programs at the Sportsplex is asking the city to sell the building to it.

Whatcom Sports & Recreation’s request goes before the Bellingham City Council on Monday.

The nonprofit leases the city-owned indoor ice and soccer arena at 1225 Civic Field Way. It wants to buy the building so it can have an asset to finance needed repairs and improvements totaling more than $1 million, according to a memo from Leslie Bryson, director of the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department.

“It definitely needs work. The roof needs to be replaced. It will be easier for them to do it than the city,” Bryson told The Bellingham Herald.

Built in 1998, the Sportsplex has an appraised value of $4.1 million.

Before the Sportsplex can be sold, the City Council must first hold a public hearing and declare it as surplus property.

The city would continue to own the land beneath the Sportsplex, according to Bryson.

“I think this is kind of a win-win for everybody,” Bryson said. “They’ll be able to make this investment in their program and their facility.”

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Skaters practice at the Bellingham Sportsplex in 2016. The nonprofit that leases the city-owned indoor ice and soccer arena at 1225 Civic Field Way wants to buy the building to finance more than $1 million in repairs. The Bellingham Herald file Staff

Sportsplex history

A business called Whitewater Ice Corp. built the Sportsplex on the city’s land.

When Whitewater decided to sell it, the owner said it was because he lost money on the Sportsplex every year and wanted to focus on his core business, according to a December 2003 Bellingham Herald story.

The city of Bellingham bought it from Whitewater in 2004.

At the time, the Whatcom Soccer Commission — the predecessor to Whatcom Sports & Recreation — already was running the Sportsplex under an agreement with Whitewater.

The group had wanted to buy the Sportsplex at the time, but couldn’t pull together the financing when it was a much smaller organization, according to Bryson.

So the city bought it, using a bond, and then leased the Sportsplex to Whatcom Sports & Recreation for the cost of the bond payments — roughly $300,000 a year, according to the Herald story.

The lease payments now exceed the bond payments by about $20,000 a year, according to the memo.

The lease made it clear that the recreation nonprofit was responsible for all Sportsplex maintenance, Bryson said.

“They understand that,” said Bryson, adding that the expectation with the Sportsplex had always been that the city, and by extension taxpayers, would not have the burden of maintaining the building.

Whatcom Sports & Recreation believes it now has the ability to buy the building, Bryson said.

A Whatcom Sports & Recreation representative couldn’t be reached for a comment.

In addition to the Sportsplex, the organization operates outdoor youth and soccer programs at the Phillips 66 Soccer Park off Northwest Drive.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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