Boys and Girls Club breaks ground on Kingsport facility

Matthew Lane • Apr 11, 2007 at 12:12 PM

KINGSPORT - One year from now, the Kingsport Boys and Girls Club hopes to open the doors of its new state-of-the-art facility, beginning a new chapter in the club's 57-year history in the Model City.

Boys and Girls Club officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning at the 9-acre site where the new facility will be built - off Stone Drive, behind Rush Street, Pratt's, Texas Road House and Pizza Hut.

Officials say the new 44,000-square-foot facility will cost about $7.7 million to construct. The club has about $5.2 million in the bank, and fund-raising efforts began in January to raise the remaining $2.5 million. Lynn Johnson, head of the capital campaign, said about one-third of the $2.5 million has already been raised.

Mayor Dennis Phillips urged those in attendance to open their hearts and pocketbooks to support the new facility.

"As they start this building, they need your help and your pocketbooks. This has such an impact on so many people," Phillips said. "There are no bad causes, and everyone is asking for money. ... Let's do what it takes to make this a reality."

Officials say the process to build a new facility began about 18 months ago. In March 2006, Wellmont Health System announced it would purchase the Boys and Girls Club property and convert it into a new entranceway to Holston Valley Medical Center as part of its $100 million expansion and renovation project under way. The two groups closed on the sale in July, with Wellmont paying $5.2 million for the property.

The new two-story facility will have 44,000 square feet (as opposed to 30,000 square feet in the current location) and include technology areas, a fitness center, an improved woodworking program, two full-sized basketball gyms, a playground, golf training area, T-ball field, Little League field and a football/soccer field.

The facility will also be divided into pods specific to children of certain ages - pods for 6- and 7-year-olds, 8 and 9, 10 to 12, and a pod for teens. Each will have separate program areas with restroom facilities.

"This is truly a new chapter for our organization. More importantly, it's a new chapter for the kids we serve," said Chuck Owens, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club. "We serve an awful lot of children, but this facility is going to enable us to increase the number of children we serve as well as improve the quality of services to children."

Owens said he hopes to be in the new facility this time next year.

"We expect to start turning dirt. Today was symbolic. I hope within the next week, 10 days we'll begin doing site work. The permits are in, and we're ready to go," Owens said.

The Boys and Girls Club is not the only local organization looking to raise funds. The Greater Kingsport Family YMCA is engaged in a fund-raising campaign of its own to raise between $2.5 million and $3.5 million for its new facility behind the Kmart Supercenter.

Owens said fund raising is going to be a challenge.

"But the Boys and Girls Club has been here since 1950. We have a story to tell, and we will be successful in our ventures," Owens said.

The Kingsport Boys and Girls Club serves about 1,000 youths per year through daily use at the club and special events at its satellite units. Programs offered include after-school homework and tutoring assistance, a technology center, an arts program, social recreation and sports programs.

The club is licensed to serve about 200 kids a day, with actual numbers being around 150. Club officials hope to serve 300 to 350 kids with the new facility.

"They do a tremendous job of nurturing the youth," said John Buckles, president of the Boys and Girls Club board of directors.

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