In the new year, children will walk through the doors of a new location for the Boys & Girls Club of Oak Harbor.
The club has left its longtime home at the historic Roller Barn for a building on Ely Street that is expected to help the club achieve its mission for years to come.
Boys and girls spent their last day at the Roller Barn on Friday, Dec. 18 and will see the new location on Jan. 4.
Local business owner James Croft bought the Roller Barn and said he plans to restore the structure to its former glory as a skating rink. He allowed the club to continue using the barn until renovations were completed on the new location.
“He’s been a good buyer for us, doing the right thing,” said Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County.
The Oak Harbor club is part of the regional organization.
Though some people may recognize the club’s new home as the former Burley Funeral Chapel, Unit Director Nikki Barone said that she feels comfortable in the new building and is confident kids will too.
“Life was celebrated here, and now life is going to be continued to be celebrated here with the youth,” Barone said.
The building needed some renovation and upgrades, but Coupeville architect Stig Carlson was able to change the space to fit the club’s needs.
“One of the things it had going for it was that the entry and large room, which used to be a chapel, were already in this configuration and those function well for a Boys & Girls Club,” Carlson said.
In addition to the bright entrance and spacious main room, the new building has a game room, computer room, small study room, and kitchen and cafeteria space. There is also a teen space complete with colored lights, computers, tall desk tables and a large television screen. The computers have all kinds of software programs for kids to learn 21st century skills, along with firewalls and content filters to keep them safe.
“It’s kind of all at their fingertips, technology-wise,” said Tyler Koble from Network PC Engineering, responsible for the new building’s technology.
The new building has less square footage than the Roller Barn, but the separate rooms will allow kids to do different activities at the same time, Barone said. It will also be helpful for social distancing.
The club has stayed open during the pandemic, but leaders had to “be a little more creative” in how they separated kids in their former home, Tsoukalas explained.
It cost about $1 million to purchase and renovate the former Burley building, Tsoukalas said.
State Rep. Dave Paul (D-Oak Harbor) helped secure support from the state budget that made the endeavor possible, Tsoukalas said.
“It was the easiest letter I’ve ever written,” Paul said of asking for support from the state’s capital budget.
Tsoukalas thanked the community and wanted to recognize those formerly involved with the club for helping them get to this point and for starting a club in the first place.
“Kudos to them for what they envisioned back then,” he said.