New Wheelhouse building to meet growing Bellingham Community Boating Center demand
Bellingham’s Community Boating Center is planning a new building to keep up with the organization’s growing demand.
The $1 million project, called the Wheelhouse, will provide a heated gathering space, restrooms, showers and changing facilities for people using the center. The new building will be ADA-accessible and Earth friendly, including solar panels.
Money for the project will be raised through a capital campaign that already is underway.
The nonprofit offers small-watercraft education, access, recreation and marine stewardship on Bellingham Bay to more than 5,000 people every year — twice as many people as the organization served before the pandemic.
“We effectively doubled and, in some categories, tripled our scale of operations and we’re still operating out of two honey buckets and one changing room,” said Community Boating Center Executive Director Bryan Rust in an interview with The Bellingham Herald. “When you’re putting 12 people in a class into wetsuits, and you have three classes going, that doesn’t work. On a busy Saturday, there’s a line for all these resources.”
Since the center was founded in 2006, it has been operating classrooms and meeting spaces out of several unheated sheds on site. The Wheelhouse is meant to provide additional and adequate space for community members interested in participating in the nonprofit’s programs.
“The whole mission here is inclusivity and to get that, you need comfort and safety. Having a safe, warm place to change is pretty key to what we’re doing here,” Rust said.
Rust says a huge benefit of the new space will be the opportunity to run classes in person year-round, , even in inclement weather.
“Tides and Currents, Coastal Navigation and Weather of the Pacific Northwest are all class-based programs that we’ve run in the past that we just fundamentally don’t have a heated space to run,” he said.
Building and design permits are complete for the new building but the boating center is still fundraising. The capital campaign is expected to pay for more than just the new building.
Here’s how the $1 million will be used
The main Wheelhouse building will cost $800,000. Other projects include:
▪ $80,000 for fleet upgrades, including new electric safety boats and adaptive sailboats and paddling equipment.
▪ $55,000 will be used for other on-site improvements including a digital weather station, stormwater drainage and improved security.
▪ $65,000 is earmarked for a facility upkeep fund to help maintain the new building and site improvements.
The center has raised more than $578,000 as of May 2. Donations of $50,000 or more have been made from the Rotary Club of Bellingham, the Port of Bellingham, Exxel Pacific General Contractors, the Mary Storer Foundation, the D.V. and Ida McEachern Charitable Trust, and the Whatcom Community Foundation, Celedo Fund.
Construction on the new building is expected to begin in fall 2023 and be open to the public by the spring. The Wheelhouse design was made by Christensen Design Management.