Park restoration gets $50k boost

An artist
An artist's rendition of the restored transmitter building at Battle Point Park.
— image credit: Courtesy of Dana Webber Courtesy of Dana Webber

A matching grant from Rotary will revamp the historic transmitter building at Battle Point.

The S.O.S. for donations for the transmitter building renovation went out, and Rotary responded.

The Bainbridge Island Rotary Club has committed a $50,000 matching grant toward the Transmitter Building Renovation project, which means every dollar of monetary donations during 2005 will be doubled. The grant was approved by Rotarians before Christmas, but was only announced last week.

“We saw the project as one to provide a variety of services to the community – from young people in gymnastics to senior citizens as a place to do exercise that we currently don’t have,” said Tom Lindsley, Rotary past president.

“We think it’s going to be a real nice focal point to Battle Point Park, instead of a block sitting there.”

Jean Welch, park sports supervisor, said the district was “so happy and enthused” about the grant.

Fund-raising to renovate the pre-World War II-era transmitter building began last year, to alleviate the crowding of the popular gymnastics programs by the school and park districts.

The building would be used by “tot and parent” gymnastics programs; some 400-500 kids now take gymnastics class each quarter, sharing less than 4,000 square feet of space.

As the park district has no budget for capital expenses, building renovation relies on donations. Renovation for the upper floor is estimated at $225,000 – a large sum, but considerably less than a previous plan for a $5 million levy to buy land and build a new recreation center.

Last year, about $80,000 was received in monetary and in-kind donations. Once the building is sealed, work on lighting and heating can begin. Still to go are cement repair and window installation – another $15,000-20,000 – and solving drainage and leakage issues in the basement.

Island architect Dana Webber has volunteered to do design work and get the proper permits for the building.

The building was used for storage for decades, and was allowed to run down. Webber says water is still coming in through the basement, but they don’t know much about the building, which is making it tricky to figure out its source. Former electrical conduits may be the culprit.

The mother of young children, Webber said she was always intrigued by the transmitter building when she took her kids to play in Battle Point Park, and imagined what could be done with it. When she saw a Review article about its renovation early last year, she volunteered.

Since the project is relying heavily on donated time and materials, the design challenge has been to keep it simple so volunteers can do much of the work.

At the same time, the building “has a quirky character, and we wanted to keep that 1930s character without being a kitschy building,” Webber said, “so I tried to keep that frame of context by not trying to add too much.”

Some elements that will be preserved include 38 glass blocks salvaged from the original windows. The blocks will be integrated into the design of new, large windows at either end. Huge holes that once housed electrical conduits to power the radio transmitter will also be preserved.

In-kind contributions last year of about $56,000 included a new roof from Jack and Mike Horishige, over $20,000 in park district labor, posters by Marc Anderson, Bainbridge Disposal and Nelson Glass.

Monetary donations of $23,000 were also received, but the target $225,000 for all the renovations was still a faraway goal. The project seemed to stall for some months, when Rotary stepped to the plate.

Treasurer for the cause, Amy Curran, says an angel has already come forward this year with $15,000, and the fund-raising team is hopeful that money can be raised to make good on every penny of the matching grant by Dec. 31. A phone-a-thon event is planned for early spring and an open house for the public in late spring.

“It’s a challenge to get the money raised, but we’re confident we can,” Curran said.

“It’s put new life into this project,” Welch said. “It’s given us a real jump start for this year so that we can go forward.”

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