By Joni Kirk, Mill Creek Communications and Marketing Director.
Snohomish County Councilmember Terry Ryan presented a poster-sized $100,000 check to the Mill Creek City Council at their April 4, 2017, meeting symbolizing a grant to refurbish Freedom Field in the Mill Creek Sports Park.
Snohomish County’s funding will partially pay for the project’s estimated $775,000 cost.
Included in the project will be replacing the artificial turf, upgrading the lighting system to LED lights, and installing an American Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible gate by the third-base dugout.
“We are always looking for opportunities to partner with local communities for the benefit of sports activities,” said Ryan. “It is a personal passion of mine to keep kids healthy, happy and active.”
The 64,050-square-foot field will receive new turf with embedded baseball, softball and soccer lines that reduces ongoing painting maintenance and enhances usability.
Opened in 2004, the sports park serves 3,825 youth annually and is home to many teams for soccer, baseball and softball. It is rented by Snohomish County youth sports organizations for 2,661 hours over the course of 330 days per year, including use for several regional and state tournaments each year. In addition, the community uses it when not occupied by rental groups.
“This ballpark is known as the place throughout the area to play baseball,” said Ryan.
The new LED lighting is anticipated to last for 20 years, which is a four-fold increase in longevity and will be significantly less expensive to operate. The new lights will reduce the power consumption for Freedom Field by an estimated 63 percent, according to Snohomish County PUD.
Engineering and design work is slated to begin later this year. The construction will be deferred until late spring 2018. The work should be completed in summer 2018.
“The field construction must wait until dry conditions to allow the turf adhesive to bond,” said Brian Davern, recreation and tourism manager for the City of Mill Creek. “We know the timing of this will impact Little League, but they are aware of it and are making alternate preparations.”
Ryan’s presentation demonstrated his ongoing contributions to Mill Creek. He is a 20-year soccer coach for premier and high school teams and was instrumental in the development of the Mill Creek Sports Park.
During his 17 years on the Mill Creek City Council, Ryan worked to develop the Mill Creek Town Center and the nearby sports park.
“County Councilmember Ryan’s foresight and dedicated work in our community has proven to be a lynchpin for our tourism efforts,” said City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto. “This corridor in northwest Mill Creek continues to evolve as a draw for those in the city and from the surrounding area.”
Polizzotto cited the award-winning Mill Creek Town Center for retail shopping and dining, the sports park for youth programs and more, and the soon-to-come Arena Sports and Entertainment facility as examples.
“We are working on a strategic economic development approach focusing on tourism, which has recreation as its foundation, to draw people to our community,” said Polizzotto.
According to the International Association of Travel and Tourism Professionals, 84 percent of sport event travelers are spectators who spend more time and money at the destination and beyond. In addition, 58 percent of sports tourism travelers will return to a destination on a leisure trip with their families.
“Tourism is a $1 billion industry for Snohomish County,” said Ryan. “Working closely with communities like Mill Creek, we can continue to build tourism as an economic driver for the county. Recreation and tourism benefits retailers, restaurants, service providers, cities, the county – and ultimately the taxpayers. This $100,000 grant has a significant return on investment for Snohomish County.”
City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto and Councilmember Terry Ryan. Photo credit: Richard Van Winkle.