Mikayla Neil, right, get homework help from Heather Cooper at the Boys and Girls Club. Ned Jilton II photo.
KINGSPORT - The Kingsport Boys and Girls Club is making progress on the construction of its new 44,000-square-foot facility. However, fund-raising efforts have been challenging, and the club still needs to raise $1.2 million to reach its goal.
The Boys and Girls Club's new facility is located on a 9-acre site off Stone Drive, behind Rush Street, Pratt's, Texas Road House and Pizza Hut. 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.
Groundbreaking took place in April, and construction has been moving ahead since then, said Chuck Owens, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club.
"We're just making tremendous progress, working about six days a week weather permitting," Owens said. "The footers have been completed, and they're putting up the walls, and some of the door frames are already in. We're making a lot of progress."
Owens said construction officials say the facility will be finished on April 9, 2008, just under one year from the groundbreaking date.
The Boys and Girls Club received $5.2 million from Wellmont Health System for the purchase of the club's current facility and land. Wellmont plans to convert the property into a new entranceway to Holston Valley Medical Center as part of its $100 million expansion and renovation project under way.
Fund-raising efforts began in January to raise an additional $2.5 million, and according to Owens, the club has raised $1.28 million. Added to the Wellmont money, the club has approximately $6.48 million. The cost of the new facility is estimated to be $7.7 million, which leaves a gap of about $1.2 million.
Owens said fund raising has been slow and hard, citing all of the other recent "great causes" in the community seeking donations, including the ETSU College of Pharmacy, Mountain States Health Alliance's Children's Hospital, the YMCA's new Kingsport facility, and the Veterans Memorial Park in Kingsport.
Owens said the club may ask the city of Kingsport for some level of funding, but before that takes place officials would investigate other options, finish the value engineering process, and research state funding while preparing its case to make to city leaders. A decision on whether the club would ask the city for any money will occur within the next 30 days.
"We'll be through with the value engineering, and we should come back with some pretty hard numbers," Owens said.
Owens said the club also wants to meet with staff members from the city, Kingsport City Schools and Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce officials to see if there are any gaps where the groups could work together to enhance services to the community.
Mayor Dennis Phillips said the Boys and Girls Club is an outstanding organization but warned the city needs to analyze the precedent set by giving money toward the project.
"I think the first question we need to decide ... is this new water for the city to start getting into. Somewhere between the city not doing anything for these worthwhile projects and being hit from now on for everything that comes along ... we've got to make a decision," Phillips said. "I think the city can consider these requests on an individual basis. We need to hear from the taxpaying citizens, and if the public is behind the donation, then I think we need to consider it."
People wishing to make donations to the project can mail those to P.O. Box 783, Kingsport, TN 37662 c/o the Boys and Girls Club. Naming options are also available for the gymnasiums, program pods, individual rooms and the fields.
"I think we have a great project. The club has been in existence for over 50 years, and we serve children no one else in this community can or will serve. We just have a tremendous track record of providing quality services to children," Owens said. "I'm speaking from a biased perspective, but I think it's the most critical need in the community."