If all goes according to plan, kids and adults could be shooting hoops before the end of the year where now lies only a grassy field in front of the Buckley skatepark.
The city of Buckley has nabbed a $75,000 state grant to help build the “Rainier Gateway Court,” a multi-purpose sports court next to the Foothills Trail and skatepark along SR 410.
“This is such a great, great thing for the young kids in our community,” White River High School Athletic Director Chris Gibson said. “It’s going to definitely be a facility to be proud of.”
Under current designs, the roughly 8750 square foot court will feature two courts for basketball, one full-sized and another three-quarters sized. It will also include pickle-ball and general “open play” area for kids, City Administrator Paul Weed said.
The smaller court, which will include an adjustable hoop, will be a chance for younger kids to get into the sport, Weed said.
“You can start playing soccer at 5 years old, (but) basketball’s a little more challenging,” Weed said. “Often the rims are 10 feet. For a little one, unless that rim adjusts, they don’t have the strength to shoot a basketball. It can be challenging to get kids acquainted with the sport.”
Buckley is a city with a rich basketball tradition, Gibson said, but to find a high-quality outdoor court you have to go as far as Sumner, he said.
So the new court will offer a whole new opportunity for local kids, youth summer camps and the general public to exercise and compete, Gibson said.
“At the high school, we’ve already talked about how cool it’s going to be in the summertime (to) have practice outside,” he said.
The $75,000 state grant, which was the full amount Buckley asked for, comes from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. Buckley will contribute $92,694 for the project, for a total cost of about $167,700.
Since Buckley was bumped up a city size category in the latest census, there’s a chance the city could get even more from the RCO fund down the line, Weed said – up to about 10 percent more.
“I anticipate we’ll be applying for many more RCO grants in the next year,” Weed said. “We have several projects in the pipeline (and) this is the best way to leverage taxpayer dollars. This should be our standard.”
The city council and Mayor Pat Johnson gave the go-ahead to apply for the state grant last year, but didn’t get certification of the matching grant until April.
The RCO grant stipulates that the City can’t start spending the grant money until Aug. 1, Weed said. So in the meantime, the city is finishing its designs for the court.
Come August, they should be ready to put the project to bid with construction firms, Weed said, and the city hopes to have the project finished in the fall with a ribbon cutting in late October.
Buckley would have been able to build the court even without the RCO money. But that extra chunk of change will fund lights, bleachers and pickle ball nets at the court, in addition to the rubberized court surface in the colors and design of the White River School District.
Weed said the city and White River STING are even looking at putting together a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Buckley a la the “Hoopfest” tour. That could involve shutting down River Avenue to bring the community out for fun and competition.
White River STING, which donated $5,000 to the basketball court project, is a competitive program that prepares 4th through 8th grade boys and girls for playing at the high school level.
For now, you can still contribute to the Brick Fundraiser for the court at https://www.bricksrus.com/donorsite/cityofbuckley. Donors will have their names inscribed into the bricks that will make up the path from the Foothills Trail to the court.
That fundraiser was initially designed to raise money in case Buckley didn’t get the full $75,000. Weed said the money will now go toward enhancements and new features on the court, such as basketballs and nets. The money will also help the city shoulder increased construction and materials costs, a consideration that builders are facing all around the country.