Renderings by Kahler Slater have been released for the new $80 million nonprofit, multi-sport, urban athletic facility called The Opportunity Center, which is planned for a 22-acre site at 4206 N. Green Bay Ave. in the Rufus King neighborhood.
The 300,000-square-foot facility – one of the first of its kind in the U.S. – will offer universal access to multi-sport facilities for all abilities, ages, background and income. The center’s organizers plan a series of community listening sessions to engage with targeted users both this year and next.
The facility is expected to open in 2025.
The site, just west of I-43 and north of Capitol Drive, was purchased with the help of a $2.5 million loan from the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation.
David Cooks, a Milwaukee native and T-6 paraplegic, has been named president and CEO of the organization building the project, after having served as board chair.
The renderings show an expansive lobby with space for community gatherings and a spiral walkway to make the second floor easily accessible by all.
A view of the second floor shows a pool and an education center, as well as the wide hallways and spaces that are, like the spiral ramp, aimed at universal access. The second floor will also include spaces for mentorship and community uses, including chess and games for children.
The third and final interior rendering released shows a fieldhouse with a turf indoor football field encircled by a multi-lane track.
The Opportunity Center is emerging from an idea hatched by Damian Buchman, founder of Wauwatosa-based The Ability Center nonprofit organization that advocates for universal, inclusive and adaptive recreation opportunities, and Bader Philanthropies VP for engagement, Franklin Cumberbatch.
“Franklin and I have both experienced the transformational impact that belonging to an athletic community can have on a child’s trajectory in life,” said Buchman in a statement issued Wednesday.
“We see a tremendous opportunity to replicate this experience for thousands of young people in our community that are facing tough odds, and we know it can inspire them to greatness too.”
Hoping to mitigate the important issue of transportation, a Milwaukee County Transit bus stop will be added on Green Bay Avenue to serve The Opportunity Center.
“We’re going to supplement what kids are involved in during the school year,” Cooks said. “The Opportunity Center will serve the whole person, not just serve to develop athletes. Ideally, we’d love to see people of all abilities from Milwaukee and the surrounding municipalities of Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and Glendale running around a 300-meter track.
“I see young children, disabled veterans and all races being active together, and having interactions you do not see anywhere else in our community.”
Bader Philanthropies recently announced a five-year, $5 million grant to help support the project.
“On one level, The Opportunity Center is about bringing people together to push their physical limits,” said Daniel J. Bader, president/CEO of Bader Philanthropies, Inc. “But, what makes The Opportunity Center special is it will be a place where city limits will become invisible and people will get curious about one another and spark meaningful connections.”
The hope is that The Opportunity Center will also boost the city’s sports tourism industry by drawing athletic events at many levels, youth sports to Division 1 college tournaments and national events.
To that end, the center’s organizers are partnering with The Sports Facilities Companies, which operates more than 35 facilities in 23 states.
“It will be 100 percent universally accessible, without barriers including even financial means, which is a huge differentiator,” said The Sports Facilities Companies’ partner Eric Sullivan.
“The Opportunity Center is focused on creating sports programming opportunities that do not exist as readily as they should be. For example, typically, able-bodied facilities try to cater to those with disabilities, but those facilities are not really set up for that.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.