Why Open and Light the Fields?
The Future of the Barton Fields
About thirty years ago, the Seattle Seahawks lost their lease on the property that is now Carillon Point and began making plans to relocate outside of Kirkland. City Council Member Randy Barton, who also served as Northwest University’s Director of Development, approached the Seahawks on behalf of the city to ask them to stay in town, offering them a free, 15-year lease on vacant property owned by Northwest University. It seemed good to the Houghton Community Council, the City of Kirkland, the Seahawks, and Northwest University to pursue that partnership, and for 22 years, the Seahawks practiced, carried out business, and, in many cases, lived in Kirkland. The arrangement offered benefits to the university, to Houghton, and to the whole city.
When the Seahawks left Kirkland to build permanent facilities in Renton, Northwest University took over the fields, with their use restricted by code only to the university. While the university wanted to make them available for broader use, we were financially unable to begin the full master plan revision process that would have made it possible. Now that we are carrying out that process, we want to expand the use of the fields for the maximum benefit to the University and Kirkland community sports leagues.
There are three major reasons the university wishes to expand the use of the fields. First, expanding the use of the fields would provide a real benefit to athletes living in Houghton and Kirkland. Due to the severe shortage of athletic fields in Kirkland, the City has long desired access to our fields for community sports. Heavy usage by University athletic teams during the Fall and Summer semesters would not permit very much outside use of the fields while school is in session, but during the months from May to August, the fields lie virtually unused. We would like to accommodate the City of Kirkland’s desire to use the fields during reasonable hours. Along with such an arrangement would come a rich bonus—the happy sounds of kids at play during summer months.
A second reason for expanding the use of the fields is that the natural grass fields are expensive to maintain, requiring extensive watering and maintenance, and the existing artificial turf field is aging fast and in need of replacement. The University would like to resurface the entire area with artificial turf, providing a drier and safer field that would require less maintenance. Without some income from renting the fields to the City Parks and Recreation Department, it will be difficult for us to achieve such a resurfacing. We do not anticipate to profit from such an arrangement beyond the help it would offer us to improve and maintain the fields for student athletes.
Finally, the improvement of and expansion of access to the Barton Fields directly enhances our fulfillment of the university’s mission. Our mission calls us to be “a learning community dedicated to spiritual vitality, academic excellence, and empowered engagement with human need.” Athletic competition constitutes a very important academic exercise, in which athletes are both learners and teachers. Everyone at Northwest benefits academically from the lessons learned in sports. Along this line, we wish to install lights in order to decrease the amount of class time missed by athletes and to enable more students to attend games outside class hours. Furthermore, we believe athletics enhance spiritual vitality, offering transcendent experiences for athletes and spectators alike. We also appreciate the way the expansion of our field use would allow us to meet the needs of athletes in our community.
In addition to resurfacing the fields, the university would like to install high-tech lighting that would allow us to use the fields after classes during winter months. Without lighting, students miss significant time in classes in order to play afternoon games. Our motivation here is purely academic.
We would expect that the zoning would limit all use of the lighting to early evening hours. Both University and outsiders would be subject to city codes on lighting and noise restriction. The construction of a small field house near our parking lot would provide restrooms and changing areas close to the field. Our neighbors have asked us to provide such facilities. Finally, we would like to provide bleacher seating to accommodate spectators for special occasions such as playoff games. Such occasions do not occur every year, but in the past, they have drawn up to 300 spectators for two or three days per year. The bleachers would also allow parents and friends to watch community sports games.
Were it not for the wisdom and cooperation of the city and community councils, the Barton Fields would never have existed. We believe it is right and good—and central to our mission and supported by city policies—to make the fields available for wider usage by residents of the city.
With excitement about the future,
Joseph Castleberry, President
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