Woodinville company is a superstar of innovative bicycle products

  • Written by Deborah Stone
SportsWoorks Tofino
Courtesy Photo. The company’s new No Scratch Bike Rack.
When you’ve lived in a community a long time, you might think you’re pretty clued in on the businesses that exist in the area. It’s always a surprise then to discover a company that has been around for a few decades and yet somehow has escaped your radar. Take Sportworks Northwest, for example, a business that has called Woodinville home since 1990. The company, which is known for designing and manufacturing innovative bicycle products, was founded by Woodinville residents and avid cyclists, Michael and Sandi Reeves.

Back when it began, Sportworks was a contract manufacturing facility working primarily with SCOTT USA Bikes to make handlebars, forks and suspension forks for road and mountain bikes.

Then in 1993, the company went off on its own after being awarded a contract by King County Metro to design and manufacture transit bike racks.

“This was the first product of its kind for buses,” explains Derek Sanden, V.P. of Sales and Marketing for Sportworks. “And King County Metro was the first transit system in the U.S. to have them on their fleet.”

The company started growing little by little and as bike ridership increased, more municipalities across the country needed the special racks for their buses.

Today, Sportworks owns 95 percent of the market for this product.

“Sportworks transit racks are used by 500 municipalities throughout North America and carry over one million bicycles per month,” says Sanden.

“The bike rack has become an essential piece of equipment for buses and we make ten different styles, which we market and sell to transit agencies and municipalities.” This month, the company is getting ready to launch a line of bike parking products featuring the new No Scratch Bike Rack. Blending a durable protective bumper, modern design and high quality materials, this revolutionary bike rack is ideal for colleges, universities, small businesses, office and residential buildings, sports arenas and other urban settings where bicycles are utilized.

“We have two styles of the rack,” comments Sanden. “There’s the standard-sized Tofino and then there’s a smaller version, the Westport. And they can be customized with a sign plate for a logo, name or image.”

He adds, “What’s great is that the rack has a fully-integrated bumper. It’s durable and non-abrasive and will protect bikes from scratches and other damage.”

Sanden notes that the line took about a year to develop and was designed to meet the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals’ Bicycle Parking Guidelines. He also points out that all of Sportworks’ bike racks are “Red List” compliant, meeting the material sourcing criteria of the Living Building Challenge and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification programs for new and existing buildings.

The company’s products are produced using post-industrial recycled materials and non-toxic finishes. “We design and manufacture everything right here in our 25,000-square-foot facility in Woodinville,” says Sanden.

“And every product has been tested and proven to last.” Sportworks currently has 70 employees. Its growth, according to Sanden, has been steady. “We’ve been fortunate that the economic pull-backs have had minimal impact on us,” he adds. “We’ve managed to remain relatively stable. What’s helped us is the federal assistance money that has been available for transit authorities to buy bike racks. And then the rising fuel prices have caused some people to look for alternative modes of transportation to get to work.” Sanden believes that as bikes increase in usage, the racks will be in major demand.

For more information about Sportworks Northwest and its products:


NSD teacher is grand-prize winner

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

mike biodiesel
Courtesy photo. Mike Wierusz
BOTHELL – Northshore School District’s sustainable engineering and design teacher Mike Wierusz is the grand-prize winner of the Washington Chapter of Council of Educational Facilities Planners International (CEFPI) 2011-12 Innovative Educator Award. Wierusz received the $2,000 grand prize for the mobile learning lab his sustainable engineering and design class is completing. The Innovative Educator Award recognizes Washington state teachers who make creative use of physical space to enhance students’ learning.

“Mike’s steadfast leadership teaching students and staff about sustainable engineering and design and about creating sustainable ‘green’ environments has been incredible,” said Secondary Academy for Success Principal Vicki Puckett. “He has provided support to his colleagues to integrate ‘green’ into the curricula at SAS. As a result students are much more aware and educated about current and future needs of our environment because of Mike’s efforts.”

The mobile learning lab is a student-driven project that will enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) literacy in the Northshore School District. Through the use of interactive hands-on displays and an in-class wind lab, high school students will teach elementary students about energy. And, elementary students will walk away from the experience with a greater appreciation for the application of science and math to solve real world problems.

“My goal with the mobile lab is to make it a student-led endeavor that extends the sustainability concepts learned in my lab beyond the four walls that define my room,” said Wierusz.  “A big project like this is complex and challenging for all involved, but the rewards far outweigh any hurdles we face along the way.”

Final construction of the mobile learning lab will begin in late May and is projected to start serving elementary schools in spring 2013.

Chihuly Garden is feast for the senses

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Chihuly Garden 004
Staff Photo/Deborah Stone Chihuly’s “Sun” is an explosion of yellow and orange.
The wait is over. The highly anticipated Chihuly Garden and Glass at Seattle Center is officially open to the public.

The nearly 45,000- square-foot showcase of glass with its Exhibition Hall, Glasshouse and Garden, is an ode to the prolific career of noted artist Dale Chihuly. The Exhibition Hall, which contains eight galleries and three “Drawing Walls,” offers visitors a comprehensive look at Chihuly’s significant series of work.

Each room is an explosion of color, light and texture that captivates the senses. In “Glass Forest,” long, slender tubes of neon and glass appear as trees, immersing viewers in a dazzling woodland.

Nearby, in the Northwest Room, Native American baskets and trade blankets line the walls, along with a gallery of photographs of Native Americans taken by well-known photographer Edward Curtis. These items, all from Chihuly’s personal collection, have at one time or another served as inspiration for the local artist.

You can see the region’s influences at play on the varying-sized glass baskets he created, which show correlation in shape and design to those of the collected artifacts.

The Sealife Room is a wonder to behold; its centerpiece, a vibrant tower in blue that is inhabited by golden sea creatures.

Look up when you enter the next gallery and set your sights on the spectacular Persian Ceiling.

The tapestry of colors and their reflected lights upon the walls will transport you to the land of the Kasbah.

In Mille Fiori, hundreds of glass flowers are set upon a reflective, plexiglass pond.

Pops of color spill out of two wooden boats in the Ikebana and Float Boat gallery and in the “Chihuly Over Venice Room,” the artist’s iconic chandeliers hang from the ceiling like jeweled pendants.

The last gallery is the Macchia Forest.

The inception for this series came from the artist’s desire to use all 300 of the colors of glass available in the hotshop.

The results bring to mind gigantic, spotted mushrooms out of an “Alice in Wonderland” scene.

The Exhibition Hall also features the Collection’s Café, The Theatre, The Bookstore and Chandelier Walkway. In the café, which is named for Chihuly’s fondness for unique and vintage objects, visitors can dine on Northwest-sourced and globally-inspired cuisine, while gazing at a selection of the artist’s favorite collections — 28 in all.

Vintage accordions hang from the ceiling and each table has a built-in collection of its own, ranging from fishing rods and clocks to ceramic miniature dogs and string holders.

An acrylic Drawing Wall with 36 of Chihuly’s colorful drawings provides additional eye candy.

Of special note is the collection of bottle openers that line the walls of the bathrooms.

Those interested in learning more about the artist’s working process can view a series of short videos in The Theatre, while shoppers can head to The Bookstore, a mecca of unique items that reflect the creative spirit of our region.

The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glasshouse, the result of Chihuly’s lifelong appreciation for conservatories.

Inside is a newly-created installation of epic proportions, measuring 40-feet tall and 100-feet long, and consisting of 1,340 individual components.

The stunning floral sculpture, which is done in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and ambers, is suspended in all its glory from the ceiling.

Its design draws inspiration from two of the artist’s favorite buildings: Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Crystal Palace in London.

The Glasshouse will serve as an event space for several of the exhibition’s non-profit partners, including Pratt Fine Arts Center, Pilchuck Glass School, Seattle Public Schools and ArtsFund.

Outside the Glasshouse is the Garden, which provides a rich backdrop for the art with paths lined by trees, plants and flowers.

At the center of this landscape, on a bed of 4,500 plantings of black mondo grass, is the 16-inch in diameter “Sun,” an explosion of yellow and orange that has the power to brighten up even the grayest of Seattle days.

A collection of “Reeds on Logs,” featuring nearly 500-year-old salvaged old growth western red cedar from the Olympic Peninsula, is also a key anchor of the gardens. The 30-foot -tall lime green “Icicle Towers” and 20-foot-tall pink “Crystal” bring to mind popsicles and rock candy, respectively.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is the most comprehensive, long-term exhibition of the artist’s work to date.

Organizers expect this immersive art experience to attract over 400,000 visitors per year and the hope is that it will become an enduring tribute to the Pacific Northwest’s spirit of innovation.

For more information:

Marimba band is ‘part of school culture’ at Canyon Creek

  • Written by Deborah Stone


The Canyon Creek Elementary School marimba band has become a tradition at the school. Staff photo.

Canyon Creek’s marimba band has been a tradition at the school for seven years.

“It’s become part of the school culture here,” says Patricia Bourne, Canyon Creek’s music teacher and director of the group. “Only sixth graders can participate and those who do understand the commitment they must make, as it requires time, energy, self-discipline and responsibility.”

The idea to form a marimba ensemble was initially driven by students, who were interested in playing more challenging music with the instruments.

The first group consisted of 20 kids. This year, there are 33, with an almost even split between girls and boys.

Although acceptance to the band does not require an audition, it does necessitate the completion of an application form.

“I had 65 students apply this time around and I had to draw names to see who would get in,” says Bourne. “It was hard to disappoint those who weren’t selected.”

Bourne explains that she has been using marimbas in her classes for 10 years and that they are very popular with the kids.

She notes their accessibility and the fact that very young children can learn to play the instruments without too much difficulty.

She adds, “There’s immediate feedback to the marimba, which is well-suited to children.”

Bourne’s husband Tom makes the marimbas.

“I brought home a book about marimbas years ago,” she says, “and I asked him to make me one. He’s a musician himself and also a wonderful woodworker. After creating that first one, he’s gone on to make many more and now has his own company, Bourne Marimbas.”

The students, according to Bourne, take great pleasure in making music with the instruments.

She comments that it’s physically hard work to play the marimbas, but for boys, that aspect is particularly appealing.

“They get to hit something hard and it’s perfectly appropriate and acceptable,” she adds. “And they get to do it with their buddies. What more could you ask?”

As a member of the ensemble, students must attend rehearsals every Monday and Friday after school from February to June. Independent practice is also highly encouraged.

During May and June, the group performs at several events, including  the school’s art gala, Sorenson’s preschool carnival, for the University Women’s Club in Seattle and at Pacific Lutheran University, as well as at the Bothell Arts Fair this summer.

“It’s so rewarding for the students to have the chance to perform, as they’ve worked so hard and they’re thrilled to share their music with others,” comments Bourne.

She continues to explain that the children delight in the positive response they get from audiences.

“People smile and sometimes they start moving and dancing to the music. They always appear to be enraptured by the performances,” she adds. “They’re often surprised to learn that the kids are only 11 and 12 year olds because it just seems like it would be too difficult for children of that age to play these instruments so well.”

In addition to having fun participating in the band, students gain invaluable learning from the experience.

Musically, their sense of timing and rhythm improves, along with their understanding of theory, form and tonality.

Socially and emotionally, they learn about cooperation, commitment and accountability.

“They really take on a sense of maturity over time,” says Bourne. “They realize that they’re participating in a legacy and that there is a level of expectation and responsibility that comes with their participation.”

Bourne chooses the music selection for the group, opting for numbers that represent a variety of different genres, spanning from jazz and contemporary songs to the tunes of the 50s.

For sixth grader Saahil Vasdev, the music is energizing and makes him feel happy.

“Mrs. Bourne always picks out good music for us to play,” he says. “Some of the songs are difficult at first, but with practice they get easier.”

Saahil knew he wanted to be a part of the band after hearing his older friends talk about the experience.

“They told me how fantastic it was, which made me want to do it,” he adds. “I was so glad to get in and it’s been so much fun. The group really comes together and it’s great to see our skills improve.”

Fellow student Daniel Borgida expresses his pride at being a part of the ensemble, saying, “It really feels good to work at something that’s challenging and then be able to do it well. I like performing to show others what we’ve learned and to show them that marimbas are fun instruments. It’s also a way to get younger kids interested.”

Bourne derives much joy from directing the band and comments that the age level of the members is ideal. She remarks, “They’re so responsible and capable and they’re only limited by my skill.”

She comments that as she is a “true musician,” she loves great music, adding, “But, I love it even more when I can see and hear kids making great music. That is incredibly rewarding for me.”

Gentle breezes and soft landings

  • Written by Deborah Stone
An aura of serenity surrounds a hot air balloon flight. Photo courtesy of Airial Balloon Company
Tom Hamilton spends a good deal of his time above land. The veteran pilot finds life much more interesting up in the air than down on the ground.

Though years ago he flew helicopters in the military, today you’ll find Hamilton at the helm of a hot air balloon, working for Airial Balloon Company in Snohomish.

“Hot air balloons have been around for a long time,” says the local man. “The first documented flight was made in 1783 by Joseph and Etienne Montgolifier, two brothers from France who were in the paper manufacturing business.”

Hamilton goes on to explain that the men developed a new paper which was a combination of paper and silk. When they watched it burn, they observed that little pieces of unburned paper and ashes would rise into the air.

This phenomenon fascinated them and they decided to explore the possibility of capturing this air and using it as a means for man to fly.

The brothers’ first flight lasted 25 minutes. Their balloon rose to 1,500 feet and traveled a total distance of five miles.

“Ballooning eventually became the rage in Europe,” comments Hamilton. “The symbol of the balloon was used everywhere. And then later after World War II, a man named Ed Yost came along and developed a balloon made of nylon and heated it with propane. That marked the development of the modern balloon.” He adds, “Today, hot air balloons are very prolific and popular everywhere.”

Airial Balloon Company has been in existence since 1981. It runs flights year-round, seven days a week, weather permitting.

The conditions have to be just right and obviously, windy, rainy days are not favorable. On a recent beautiful Sunday morning, six of us assembled at Airial Balloon’s offices for a flight.

Lee and Lucy came from Issaquah to celebrate Lucy’s birthday, while Todd, Kathleen and 11-year-old Nicholas drove from Capitol Hill to mark Todd’s 50th.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” says Todd. “Every year, I see the balloons in the valley and they look so beautiful and I’ve always imagined how it would be to go up in one. Turning 50 seemed like a good time to do it.”

The group gathered in the parking lot to watch as our pilot, Hamilton, sent several small, helium-filled balloons up in the air in order to get speed and directional data.

Then we loaded up in a van and headed to a nearby field where we participated in the process of helping to bring the balloon to life.

At nine stories high and decked out in the colors of the rainbow, it was a thing of wondrous beauty to behold.

Once in the basket, we quickly ascended and left terra firma behind.

From our bird’s eye perch, we were able to see the picturesque Puget Sound region in all its glory, from the snow-capped mountains of the Cascades and the Olympics to majestic Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker. Lakes, rivers and the sound were all in view, as were the various islands that dot this spectacular landscape.

Seattle’s skyline appeared, along with the Space Needle, and below us, the pastoral Snohomish Valley looked like a geometric grid with toy sized farms.

What surprises most first- time passengers is the aura of serenity that surrounds a hot air balloon flight.

“It’s so peaceful up here,” comments Kathleen. “And, other than the noise of the burner every so often, it’s really quiet. I just never expected it to be this way.”

Her husband Todd adds, “It’s so gentle, too. You really do float. There’s no rocking or swinging wildly. It’s very smooth and calm.” As he piloted the balloon, Hamilton pointed out landmarks and sights and answered questions about the mechanics of hot air ballooning.

He explained that the direction of the flight depends on the wind and that the altitude of the craft is controlled by changing the temperature of the air inside the envelope.

“It’s the challenge of navigating from point A to point B that’s fun,” he says. “And no two flights are the same, so it’s a unique experience each time I go up.”

After over an hour in the air, we began to descend, coming right over Highway 9 and landing in another spacious field.

Back at the company’s offices, in a gazebo in the garden, we celebrated our adventure with a champagne toast to “gentle breezes and soft landings,” followed by a tasty breakfast of warm apple coffeecake and fresh fruit.

We had flown five miles at a max height of 2,300 feet and gained an entirely different perspective on our own backyard.

For more information about hot air balloon flights, contact Airial Balloon Company at (360) 568-3025 or visit