The Boys & Girls Club of Oak Harbor has outgrown the Roller Barn, but the organization’s leadership is hoping someone will step in and save the iconic 107-year-old structure.
After school, approximately 150 young people, from ages 5 to 18, all congregate upstairs in the building. Without separated areas, it can be a chaotic scene of basketballs bouncing onto the pool table and younger children running around teenagers — though there aren’t many teenagers anymore.
“We love this barn, but we need something with rooms,” said Unit Director Nikki Barone.
Program Director Norri Perreault said teen membership declined as elementary school member numbers increased, because the older youth don’t have their own space and “teens don’t want to hang out with 5 year olds.”
To do homework, the children only have one cramped space that includes four computers, two small bookcases and a larger table in the middle. The room can maybe fit 15 people at once, but there wouldn’t be much elbow room.
The iconic barn’s age is also starting to become an issue. The club, which is officially a unit of the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County, started to seriously look at moving when the roof began to leak, Barone said.
Barone said she looked at repairing the damage, but estimates ranged form $80,000 to $120,000.
“We’ve been trying to find an alternative that would last the next 100 years,” said Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County.
“We just didn’t think the barn would survive that.”
However, Tsoukalas said he recognizes the historic red building’s importance to the community. Although the club wants to sell it to help pay for a new facility, he said he’s open to working with a buyer to preserve the barn.
Timing is important, and if the club moves on a new property, then it’s going to need the funds from the sale.
Tsoukalas said he’s most interested in talking with interested groups or individuals before the barn goes on the market.
“We’d like to talk to people about how to be creative and structure a deal that works,” he said.
The Roller Barn’s basement is home to one of the club’s largest and creepiest fundraisers of the year. The popular Frightville haunted house raised over $20,000 last year, and the money went to programs, bills and other operational costs.
Tsoukalas said he’d like to discuss the possibility of leasing out the downstairs from whomever buys the barn, which would ideally both save the fundraiser and help offset the new owner’s costs.
Tsoukalas said he also recognizes the land’s value and knows that the barn could be torn down if someone wanted to develop there.
“We don’t want to be the bad guys,” said Tsoukalas.
“If somebody has a good idea, we’re open to talking about it.”