Although what’s happening downtown is great, it’s important the other neighborhoods in Detroit get attention, too. To that end, S.A.Y. Detroit, in partnership with the City of Detroit, and Score7 Charitable Fund (Matthew Stafford’s Charitable Foundation), have revealed plans for a new Academics and Sports Program, called the S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center (Sports, Academics, Youth) reclaiming a recreation center in Lipke Park that was closed in 2014 due to city budget cuts.
Located on a little more than 14 acres in the Osborn School area, S.A.Y. Detroit will immediately begin repairs on the facility. The City of Detroit will lease the property to S.A.Y. Detroit on a long-term basis and construction on the football, baseball, and soccer/lacrosse fields will begin in the spring, with the goal of a soft opening in summer, and full operation by September.
Karen Washington, Chairperson of the Board of We Care about Van Dyke/7 Mile, a neighborhood organization, is a 30-year resident, and lives across the street from the Rec Center, says, “This is a quality of life issue for us. It gives our kids a safe and healthy place to play in our neighborhood.”
From a programming perspective, the new S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center at Lipke Park will use motivational learning, offering top quality athletic facilities and access to professional athletes such as Matthew Stafford. But of course, there’s a “catch.” The only way that happens is if participants (students aged 8 to 18) maintain a certain grade point average and school attendance or enroll in the daily tutoring program on site.
But it’s not just about sports, as S.A.Y. Detroit will build a 2,500 sq. ft. digital learning center for that purpose.
“We know a huge problem in Detroit is that kids have too few places to play or study after school,” said S.A.Y. Detroit Founder Mitch Albom, who initiated the concept. “This is a reason they fall behind in academics and sometimes get in trouble. We also know that for both boys and girls, there are few motivational tools better than a good gym, workout rooms and playing fields – plus the chance to meet big time athletes.”
The goal of the S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center is to increase academic performance, attendance and graduation rates, and to heighten social, self-esteem and professional presentation skills.
The overall investment in the 10-year revitalization plan is estimated at $10 million, including a capital investment of $2.5 million. This includes $675,000 from the City of Detroit ($425,000 of which is from a DNR Grant), and seven-figure commitment from the Score7 Foundation.
Stafford saw the project as a good fit for his charitable efforts. “This is a tremendous opportunity to impact our city’s young people, and make a change for the better in their educational experience, best preparing them for college, jobs and whatever else lies ahead in their future.”
Mayor Mike Duggan praised partners for stepping up and cited their cooperation with and support of neighborhood groups surrounding Lipke Park.
“While the city did a great job of providing recreational opportunities at 300 city parks last summer, it still lacked the resources to address vacant facilities as large as Lipke,” Mayor Duggan said. “Thanks to this partnership’s new approach, which has the support of the surrounding community, young people in Detroit will have a place to learn and play that is beyond anything our city has had before.”
The plan will be presented soon to the Detroit City Council. Several of the outdoor athletic fields, when not in use for programmed activities, will be available for use to the general public.
“The Lipke Rec Center had been an anchor in the Van Dyke and Outer Drive community for decades and has served three generations of youth. Having it sit vacant over the last year and half has been very hard on the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Councilman Scott Benson (District 3). “Having worked with the Mayor and 3rd District constituents on reopening Lipke Park, I am excited to see this facility being brought back to life as an athletic and educational campus for our Detroit youth.”