CHICAGO (Aug. 11, 2021) – Chicago Fire FC and the Chicago Fire Foundation have teamed up with By The Hand Club for Kids, Grace and Peace Revive Center and Intentional Sports to break ground on the first-of-its-kind professional-level facility for sports, education and wellness.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place today at the future 10-acre campus in North Austin, unveiling the project, which is just one part of the 12 Shovel Ready Sites awarded grant funding through Rebuild Illinois, the largest capital program in the state’s history. The grant, along with a donation from the Chicago Fire Foundation and support from other partners including Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, contributed to the $31 million effort that is aimed to help close the opportunity gap for youth on Chicago’s west side.
Through the contribution to the community campus, the Chicago Fire Foundation will establish a permanent home for its community outreach programs, which includes its award-winning P.L.A.Y.S. (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth, Soccer) Program. Established in 2013, P.L.A.Y.S. aims to enhance the academic performance and development of key social and emotional skills of elementary school students through a sports-based curriculum. To date, it has generated more than 250,000 hours of soccer across 40 Chicago Public Schools and serves nearly 1,000 youth each year.
“The youth within our Chicago community deserve to have access to first-rate facilities and high-quality programming within their neighborhoods,” said Chicago Fire Foundation Executive Director Jessica Yavitz. “Investing in our youth through soccer not only teaches sports skills, but also social and emotional learning traits and values. By teaming up with By The Hand Club for Kids, Grace and Peace Revive Center and Intentional Sports to create the North Austin Community Center, we’re able to provide a safe place for the community to come together and play for years to come.”
The community center in the heart of North Austin will transform an existing plot of blighted land on North Laramie Avenue into 150,000-square-feet of indoor space, outdoor turf fields and Chicago’s only FIFA regulation turf field for year-round indoor sports. The facility will provide more than 100 free community hours per week, giving area youth and their families access to the competitive sports, education, enrichment and holistic approach that help form the foundation for a strong, healthy and safe community. Through the work of the Fire Foundation, the Club will offer more than 20 hours per week of free soccer programming for the community.
“This professional-level facility in North Austin is more than just a place for our children to stay active and experience the joy of sports, but it is reshaping the future for so many young people in Chicago,” said Donnita Travis, lead organizer of the development and the founder and executive director for By The Hand Club. “We’re proud after years of work to have this moment come to life and it truly would not be possible without the Chicago Fire Foundation’s generous donation and the assistance of developing the facility.”
In addition to becoming a permanent home for the Chicago Fire Foundation’s P.L.A.Y.S. Program, the center will be home to By The Hand Club for Kids, Grace and Peace Revive Center and Intentional Sports.
The campus will be developed in partnership with Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and built by ARCO/Murray and GMA Construction Group. It will support 75 permanent jobs and 200 temporary construction jobs. The campus is expected to be complete by Summer 2022.
About By The Hand Club For Kids
By The Hand is a Christ-centered after-school program that takes kids by the hand and walks with them from kindergarten through college, loving and nurturing them—mind, body and soul—and helping them have an abundant life. By The Hand began in 2001 serving 16 students from Cabrini-Green. Today, it serves more than 1,600 students annually in five sites across Chicago neighborhoods: Cabrini-Green, Altgeld-Murray, Austin, and Englewood. By The Hand programs prioritize academic excellence, technology-enabled instruction, enrichment and literacy, tutoring and mentorship, and spiritual development to help students become agents of change. For more information or to get involved, please visit www.bythehand.org.
About Intentional Sports
Intentional Sports is a non-profit organization that stands committed to providing competitive sports opportunities and health and wellness activities for everyone, leveraging a best-in-class athletic facility in the heart of Chicago.