In the year 2003, soccer lovers dreams came true when Starfire Sports came to life.
Ben Oliver, President and CEO of Starfire, said the complex got it’s start due to lack of funds for Fort Dent Park in Tukwila.
“They (the county) shut the gates and said, ‘We can no longer maintain it. It’s costing us too much money to maintain,’” Oliver said. “We (Starfire) went to the city of Tukwila and said, ‘Hey, lets go to the county and lets make this a Tukwila park and then Starfire will run it, we’ll put in all of these beautiful facilities we currently have now and maintain it going forward, creating revenue for the city as well as for us to help the kids.’”
Chris Slatt, Steve Beck and Mark Bikham were the founders of Starfire, according to Oliver. He came to Starfire in 2007.
He said they wanted to use soccer as a way to help kids. They wanted to provide “a world class facility for everyone that is inclusive.”
“By inclusive, it means doesn’t matter of your background, your race, your religion or your financial situation. As a non-profit, they decided to kind of change the model a little bit and charge a lot, but then use those funds to allow kids who can’t afford it come in for free. So about 20 percent of all our youth participants come in here 100 percent free,” Oliver explained.
By April 2005, Starfire had it’s grand opening to the public. The 54 acre complex had been open two years prior, but Oliver said the building itself was not completed yet.
Starfire has five grass soccer fields, eight lit turf soccer fields and two indoor soccer fields.
Oliver said it has been an extraordinary experience to see Starfire grow over the past 15 years
“It’s great, it’s awesome. It’s really rewarding working for an organization that is so forward thinking with great leadership and we have all these great soccer programs, which is getting all these parents and the families and the kids here,” he said.
The next step for Starfire, according to Oliver, is to partner with local schools and other educational programs in the area.
He said the facility will soon start adding education to Starfire. There will be a STEM exposure program for the kids that come to Starfire to give them the opportunity to learn and grow not only in sports, but also in their education.
“Especially here in Tukwila, it’s so diverse, there’s so many immigrant families and we need to help them integrate them into our communities,” Oliver said.
He said the funding for this program will be the same model that Starfire has had in order for kids to play soccer, charge a large sum of money and then put that money towards funding for kids to come and participate in the program. So, 80 percent will be paying and then 20 percent of participants will be free, according to Oliver.
The STEM program is aimed to launch early next year, Oliver said.
“It’s been so great to see the changes that we’ve made in the community and I think we’ve become a really strong organization in terms of financially, being viable and being able to hang around,” Oliver said. “I think it’s (Starfire) helped support the soccer community in the way of having a facility that they can be so proud of. It then allows the teams that don’t have their own facility, they can still come here and host their events. I think it’s help put Seattle on the map, I think it’s proven with the Sounders and the attendance they get that soccer is very special for this community.”