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Bellevue advocacy group fielding community | New school facilities come complete with outdoor classrooms in Bellevue School District

Jack McLeod at the nearly completed multipurpose field at International School, which will be lined for soccer, football and lacrosse and covered in a synthetic surface similar to what exists at the district
Jack McLeod at the nearly completed multipurpose field at International School, which will be lined for soccer, football and lacrosse and covered in a synthetic surface similar to what exists at the district's high schools. McLeod is standing on 'E-Layer', which provides a longer shelf life than other base layers and is more accessible for future resurfacing when the synthetic turf's shelf life of ten years expires.
— image credit: Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter

For years, Tobey Bryant heard the complaints.

No matter which of the many sports - baseball, lacrosse, soccer - she traveled around Bellevue to watch her three children compete in, the common refrain from fellow parents and her children's coaches was the same: the fields needed help.

Torrential rain reduced the natural grass surfaces to a mess of mud and puddles during most of the year, while infields surfaced with amended sand turned to dustbowls throughout the drier summer months. For Bryant, the solution seemed obvious.

"What made me put it all together was the complaints in all the sports," she said. "So we decided to get a group together and try to do something."

The result was Bellevue Clubs for Bellevue Fields, a community advocacy group focused on making sure the fields that surround the newly renovated elementary and middle schools in Bellevue receive a share of the funds and attention given to the facility itself.

The goal is to improve the fields by eliminating natural grass in favor of a synthetic surface similar to what exists at the high school stadiums and city parks like Robinswood, and line them for multiple sports so youth and adult leagues can utilize them year-round. More than 14 sports clubs from Bellevue are part of the group, which collectively represents more than 7,000 athletes.

Jack McLeod, the facilities director with the Bellevue School District, said many groups over the years have raised concerns about the quality and availability of the fields at elementary and middle schools in the district. But he added most often the conversation has been isolated to one facility or the usage interests for only one sport. With Bellevue Clubs for Bellevue Fields, the story was entirely different.

"There have been several groups and they have been given the opportunity to get in front of the board," McLeod said. "But the board always asks, 'What about the other schools?'"

With the growth of both the general population of Bellevue, which rose 11.4 percent from 2000-2010, and the number of children in the area, 2,800 more during the same time span, finding time on the fields that are in playable shape in inclement weather has become a challenge as well. But if Bryant and her group continue on the path they have been on, that problem could soon be substantially mitigated.

Tyee Middle School was outfitted with a pair of newly surfaced synthetic fields when it was completed in August, which were paid for with cost surplus from the facility project. It hosted its first games a week ago to rave reviews and Bryant hopes will be the first of many community gathering places at the city's schools.

"Getting families together on a field gets people meeting one another," she said. "That just builds a better community."

While the Tyee project was paid for with surplus, McLeod said its completion means future projects will include a budgeted amount for the field from the capital projects fund in order to maintain the standard set by Tyee.

"We're putting together a complete package," McLeod said. "There is a lot of instruction that takes place outside, in terms of physical education and activities that go on after the school day."

Bellevue Clubs for Bellevue Fields does not conduct any fundraising of its own, instead focusing on providing a voice for sports clubs within the city at school board meetings and in the community. Rather than asking the district to acquire more land, or pull money from the general fund, Bryant said improving the existing fields and ensuring the outdoor classroom remains a vital part of future capital projects is their focus.

McLeod added that by including field costs in the same pool of capital funds voted on by Bellevue citizens in bonds, the district has found another ally to help champion the cause of school facility funding.

"They have a really holistic attitude about doing things across the district," he said. "It increases the stakeholder base."

The multipurpose field at Tyee. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

The baseball field at Tyee, which is also covered with a synthetic surface. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

The Tyee outdoor tennis courts. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

McLeod in front of the field. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

Contact and submissions: jsuman@bellevuereporter.com

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