Randall Barton has contributed a lot of time and energy to the City of Kirkland. He served on the Houghton Community Council, Kirkland City Council and was even elected mayor in 1990. But his biggest contribution brought an NFL franchise to Central Houghton and helped his alma matter, Northwest University (NU), prosper in a huge way.
“If you want a win in the win/loss column you give the ball to Randy Barton,” said honorary Board of Directors emeritus Duane Buhler, who played basketball with Barton at NU in the 1950s.
The 45,000-square-foot building, training facilities and practice fields on 10 acres have since been turned over to NU after the Seahawks moved their headquarters to Renton in 2008. NU honored the man who brokered the deal by renaming the facility after Barton during a ceremony on May 6.
“To have this building named after me is unusual,” said Barton. “Don’t you usually have to be president or donate a boatload of money? It is humbling to be recognized for my service and I am very touched.”
Barton was asked to speak and joked that he would like to have NU President Joseph Castleberry’s office with its view of Lake Washington for his retirement.
“(The Seahwaks) were here for 23 years and were always willing to contribute,” said former Kirkland Mayor Bill Woods. “It was a huge move for our city to have them here for so many years. They were just great neighbors.”
The deal between NU and the Nordstrom family, which owned the Seahawks at the time, was not easy to get done.
“I still stand amazed at how good that business transaction was,” said Barton. “There are a lot of other people who should be mentioned on that plaque.”
Barton had just been hired as the new vice president for development for NU at the time of the deal. He approached then-president D.V. Hurst with the plan in a three-page memo, two-and-a-half pages as to why the university should enter into the agreement and just a half page against the deal.
“D.V. Hurst is the wisest president Northwest University has ever had because he hired Randy Barton,” joked Castleberry.
Barton said the thing that made the transaction work was that the Nordstrom family was used to leasing land and not buying.
“The economics of it were just right for both parties,” said Barton, who has also been made an honorary Seahawk by the team in 2006. “But there were a lot of ‘i’s to be dotted. It took a huge effort by many people.”
Another appealing aspect for the Seahawks was moving their training camp from East Washington University to the west side of the state.
The deal let the Seahawks lease the land on the NU campus for nothing in return for building the facilities and leaving them to the university when they moved away.
“It is the greatest single philanthropic act ever given to Northwest University,” said Castleberry.
The Seahawks moved its training camp to the new Kirkland facility for the first 11 years the team was in Kirkland. The team held training camp in Kirkland again in 2007 and part of 2008 before the new Virginia Mason Athletic Center was finished in Renton.
The team stayed through the original 20-year lease from 1986 through 2006, then was two years into a five-year option when it moved south permanently to Renton.
The building has become a symbol of pride and expansion for the university, housing its new Creatio Recording Studio, the Eagle fitness center and the president’s office.