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Boys & Girls Clubs open new Jacksonville location, plan adjacent $1 million sports complex

The site for the sports complex was "strategically chosen based on its central location in an underserved community" of largely low-income, minority neighborhoods.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (The video above is from a previous story)

With financial support from the Jacksonville Jaguars and other donors, a longtime North Jacksonville community hub named after a local civil-rights activist is being transformed into a youth haven.

Leading the effort is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida.

The Clanzel T. Brown Boys & Girls Club at Moncrief Road and Golfair Boulevard recently opened in a city-owned building after a $300,000 renovation. Next to come will be a $1 million, 48,000-square-foot multipurpose sports complex on adjacent property, expected to be complete in late 2022. 

"This is about much more than just building parks. It’s about building character in our young people," said Paul Martinez, Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida president and CEO. "Our programs provide young people with the tools and resources they need to overcome obstacles and shape their own great futures."

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The site for the sports complex was "strategically chosen based on its central location in an underserved community" of largely low-income, minority neighborhoods, according to the clubs.

Click here to read more from the Florida Times-Union.

Sports parks are 'outdoor classrooms'

City Councilwoman Ju'Coby Pittman, whose district includes the Clanzel T. Brown property, said she was "ecstatic about the transformation" to come for the surrounding community.

The clubs provide after-school programming and summer camps for about 3,000 youth at 38 locations in Duval, St. Johns and Alachua counties. They are designed to promote character and leadership development, academic achievement, health and life skills, the arts and sports, fitness and recreation.

The Clanzel T. Brown location is in a city-owned community center that also houses a senior center temporarily being used for COVID-19 testing. The renovations included new floors, classrooms, LED lighting, paint, ceiling tiles and furniture, as well as a STEM and robotics lab, recording studio, art room and computer lab.

The club's after-school program serves about 60 youth, but the number is expected to grow to about 100, according to the nonprofit.

For the planned sports complex, the clubs will partner with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which helps communities raise funding to design and build multipurpose parks, youth and collegiate-level baseball fields and adaptive fields for special-needs participants. 

"Our role in the project will have a few different layers to it," Travis Punt, the Ripken Foundation's senior director of development, said of building "Youth Development Parks."

The local youth organizations have the land and will own the field, but the foundation manages the overall construction process.

"The local group is responsible for raising an initial portion of the project funding in order to get the process started, Punt said. "From there, our team comes in and assists with the remaining fundraising. We help engage local donors, as well as approach some of our national partners that may have an interest in the project."

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After Jacksonville's Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation Youth Development Park is built, the foundation will provide resources such as youth programming and sports equipment.

"We’re committed to that partnership long term to assist with its success," Punt said.

The foundation was formed by baseball players Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother Bill Ripken to honor their father, a longtime Baltimore Orioles coach and manager. 

The goal is to establish sports parks "that serve as outdoor classrooms designed to provide recreational, educational and athletic experiences for kids who desperately need a guiding hand," according to the foundation website. "These parks will not only help fill a critical void, but help transform communities where the need is so great."

'New beginning of chance and hope'

The Jacksonville Jaguars provided the $200,000 lead gift from the NFL Foundation as part of the NFL Club Matching Youth Football Field Program.

"The new Boys and Girls Club and the revitalization of the recreation and sports facilities … will be a game-changer for this neighborhood and the Jaguars are thrilled to be able to contribute," said Whitney Meyer, senior vice president and chief community impact officer for the Jaguars. "Not only does it provide a safe location for after-school activities, but the recreation space will provide endless opportunities for physical activity and the comradery that comes from sports. ." 

Other supporters include the city of Jacksonville, Florida Blue and the Kids Hope Alliance.

Pittman said the club projects will have "long-term social and economic impact" on the surrounding Moncrief-area neighborhoods.

Click here to read more from the Florida Times-Union.

The Clanzel T. Brown club itself "is the first step to a new beginning of chance and hope with a curriculum of life-changing programs for youth … that focus on academic support, organized sports, parent and community engagement, which is needed," she said.

"Unfortunately, residents living in this community have been affected by economic disinvestment, disparities and broken promises for years," Pittman said. "... The human capital and the investment of the Boys & Girls Club will become a visible part of the solutions one youth at a time in the historic Moncrief community and be a champion for change."

Paul Price, board chairman of the clubs, said the organization has a "commitment to do whatever it takes to serve more young people in our community. We are dedicated to helping more kids and teens reach their full potential and graduate on time with a plan for their future."

Click here to read more from the Florida Times-Union.

bcravey@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4109

BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF NORTHEAST FLORIDA

To donate, volunteer or get more information, go to bgcnf.org.