By KAITLYN NAPLES
Five years ago, the thought of a new Boys and Girls Club and Family Center facility was a dream, Mayor Art Ward said.
“Today is the beginning of the reality of that dream,” he said in regards to the groundbreaking of the new club facility on West Street.
The Bristol Boys and Girls Club and Family Center has been serving the local community for over 100 years, said its executive director Michael Suchopar. He said several years ago many people, including Boys and Girls Club officials, may have thought raising $10 million would be impossible. However, he said, it has happened and one year from now the new center will be open and ready to serve the community.
The new facility, which was designed by Amara Associations, will be 38,000 square feet and will include an education and technology center, arts and crafts center, game room, a teen center, vocational kitchen, community rooms, and also a 14,000 square foot field house, the first one of its kind in the state other than the college field houses. The new building will be a place for adults as well, and will be able to be utilized by the senior center.
Just last year, ESPN gave an additional $1 million to the projects cost after donating $400,000 in 2009 for the club to purchase the land.
Kevin Martinez, vice president of corporate outreach at ESPN, said the company plans to be part of the entire process of building the new facility.
“The Bristol Boys and Girls Club stands for what should be done in all communities,” Martinez said at last week’s groundbreaking ceremony.
Earlier this year, Walmart also donated $50,000, and other major donors includes the Barnes family, and State Representative Betty Boukus helped secure $2 million of state funding towards the project as well.
“The Bristol Boys and Girls Club is a community treasure,” Boukus said, adding it provides a safe place for children to learn and have fun.
The new facility will be titled The Don Tinty Boys and Girls Club and Family Center, in honor of local philanthropist and owner of the Tinty’s Furniture store, Don Tinty who passed away in 2009. The Tinty Foundation donated $1.1 million to the projects campaign this year as well.
Robert Scalise, a member of the Board of Directors for the Tinty Foundation, said its gift to the Boys and Girls Club and Family Center was its first major gift to the community.
“We don’t think there could have been a better location,” Scalise said, adding the Tinty family grew up in the area of the property where the new Boys and Girls Club facility will be built. The facility will be centrally located and will still be in the West End of Bristol, and not far from the Imagine Nation Children’s Museum. Also, the club’s gymnastics program will be moved to a location just down the street from the new facility.
Governor Dannel Malloy attended last week’s groundbreaking ceremony and said ever since he took office, one of his primary focuses has been on doing a better job educating and raising children in the state. He added projects like this require the support of the local community.
“Grassroots efforts in a community are very important,” Malloy said, “projects like this don’t happen if those local dollars (don’t go toward it).”
Now that the Boys and Girls Club has reached its $10 million mark, it still has another $1 million to make up for the rest of the project.
Bob Fiondella, chair of the club’s Capital Campaign Committee, said between $7 million and $8 million of the project came from about 10 different sources, and now “it is up to the community” to come together to continue supporting the project, for both self interest and gratitude.
“This building will represent uses we cannot even imagine right now,” Fiondella said, adding he has a “deep sense of gratitude” for the project, as he was involved when he was younger.
The entire project is expected to take about 10 months to complete. Throughout the school year, the Bristol Boys and Girls Club and Family Center provides services to 500 to 1,000 children each day and focuses on providing programs that focus on education, health and character development. The club also includes the Imagine Nation Museum and preschool program, 10 school-based programs, and an Outreach Program at Cambridge Park.