By Nate Holmberg
Dale Pullin has always loved physical fitness and sports. So great was his passion, that keeping himself physically fit wasn’t enough. His dream was to share his desire for healthiness with his community. So he built a gym. I doubt even Dale knew back then what his little gym would become after years of hard work and dedication. Now it’s two massive state of the art locations, one in Centralia and another in Chehalis, an indoor pool, several basketball and racquetball courts and arguably one of the most successful home grown businesses in the Twin Cities. Predictably, Dale wanted more. His vision for a healthier community had become much bigger than one man.
Dale wanted to build a massive sports hub that would draw tourists and sporting enthusiasts from Portland to Seattle. Growing up in Centralia, I would never have imagined it would be possible. Sure, we had some decent baseball fields and the grass at the football stadium was always well taken care of. But a 76,500 square foot bastion of sports and fitness? Surely not in my lifetime.
For such a large scale, far reaching project, Dale would need help. He turned to community leaders, and they formed an all-star team capable of accomplishing something on a scale never before reached in the Twin Cities.
The land the NW Sports Hub is being built on is owned by the Centralia School District (CSD). In exchange for the rights to build on their land, the CSD will be the envy of all the schools in the area. According to Centralia School District Superintendent Steve Bodnar, the school will be able to host large scale tournaments for wrestling, basketball, volleyball and baseball. Washington weather is especially fickle during the spring, so the prospect of having an indoor baseball field at their disposal is also very exciting for the school district. Steve also mentions that thanks to the partial sponsorship of international power company TransAlta, the school was able to get a new track and a turf football field.
Also a partner in this venture is the City of Centralia. According to Emil Pierson, Centralia’s Community Development Director, the city contributed $1.5 million to the project. For such a large sum of money, what does the city hope to get back? Pierson says that the NW Sports Hub location (less than five minutes from the popular Centralia outlet malls) should result in a significant increase in sales tax numbers on days when major tournaments are hosted. In fact, the entire park area around the indoor facility got an overhaul and is showing great returns. Pierson says the NW Sports Hub is going to be of great benefit to the city and small local businesses in the area.
The fourth partner in the deal is the newly founded Lewis County Public Facilities District (LCPFD). The state provided much of the funds required to get this project completed and the LCPFD was formed to manage those assets. The indoor facility, the NW Sports Hub, is just the final part of the plan for Todd Chaput and his LCPFD team. According to Chaput, who has been a small business owner in Centralia for over ten years, the LCPFD has overseen the construction of four baseball fields, tennis courts, parking lots, walking trails, the new track and turfed football field. Todd is particularly excited about the potential jobs being created by the project and the tourism it will generate.
So those are the four partners, City of Centralia, LCPFD, Centralia School District and Dale Pullin,owner of Thorbeckes Gym. But what exactly are they building? According to Pullin, the indoor facility will be 76,500 square feet and have a 70-foot high celling. It will be capable of encasing an entire regulation softball field plus grandstands. Perhaps the coolest part of the facility is its variable playing surface. Capable of being set up for 6 basketball or 10 volleyball courts, it can also be completely turfed for indoor soccer. Being Dale’s baby, Thorbeckes will manage the indoor facility which should be completed near the start of 2014.
The power of community is an impressive thing to see in action. With the completion of their mission, they will have transformed the Borst Park Sports Complex into something you would expect to see in a major metropolis. The team hopes it results in Centralia being catapulted to greater heights than ever before dreamed.
Take the outlet mall exit on I-5 and head east. Go through the first light and take a left just past the Safeway at the second light. What you see may amaze you.