“Today is evident that dreams do come true,” Councilor Steven Hoyt said to the crowd gathered under the tent on the site that will soon be a new 24,300-square-foot facility for the A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club on the CrossPlex campus in Five Points West.
The faux gold shovels gleaned on the chilly December afternoon as elected officials, corporate representatives and local organizers broke ground on the future site of the state-of-the-art clubhouse.
“Not only do dreams come true but today is very much about an orchestrated optimism into the future of our young people,” Hoyt continued. “We, the collective, believe this club will continue to make a difference in the lives of so many.”
The new Walter Howlett Jr. Clubhouse — named after the former president and CEO who passed away in 2017 — will be able to serve 450 youth daily, doubling the organization’s reach.
Mayor Randall Woodfin grew up going to the A.G Gaston Boys and Girls Club. “I believe we didn’t get here alone. It was part of a concerted effort, not only to support District 8 but all the young people in this city,” Woodfin said. “I can personally speak to the power of the Boys and Girls Club. I spent some formative years here as a club kid.”
One lesson that Woodfin said he learned during his years there was that of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. “One memory that stick out in my mind is my time on the practice field. I can tell you the main thing I took away from that is the importance of teamwork. That’s why [members of the Birmingham City Council] are standing on this stage with me this afternoon,” Woodfin said. “I learned that no matter how good an individual player is, it’s the unity of a team that ensures victory.”
The $7.2 million facility has been years in the making, Frank Adams, CEO of the organization explained. He credited former Mayor William Bell, countless donors and people within the organization for their hard work to make the dream of a new clubhouse a reality.
Earlier this year, the Council unanimously approved a ground lease in which the Boys and Girls Club will pay the City $1 a year for the next 100 years in order to build their new facility at the CrossPlex.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was part of the fundraising committee that helped secure the necessary money for the project. Rice spoke to the importance of providing a safe place for Birmingham’s youth during Wednesday’s ceremony.
“When people from across the city come together and say we’re going to do something special for our kids, something magnificent happens,” Rice said. “I want you to think too about this not just as community coming together to do good things, but coming together to do what I consider one of the greatest acts of democracy…people give up their resources and time on behalf of those who don’t have as much. It’s not just voting, it’s individual citizens taking responsibility and saying ‘No one will be left behind because democracy is only as strong as its weakest link.’”
Construction is expected to begin in the coming months and should be completed in 2020.