Emerald Youth Foundation, city of Knoxville announce plans for Lonsdale youth sports complex

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Emerald Youth Foundation and the City of Knoxville formally announced Thursday a proposal to transform an entire city block of property in Lonsdale to serve neighborhood youth and their families.

The property is located at the corner of Sherman Street and Minnesota Avenue, across from Sam E. Hill preschool. WATE 6 On Your Side reported on April 10 that Knoxville city leaders and the Emerald Youth Foundation were quietly working on a plan to create a sports complex in Knoxville’s Lonsdale neighborhood as a way to keep kids safe and on the streets.

Previous story: Knoxville leaders explore proposed plan for Lonsdale youth sports complex

“We believe it has potential to really serve this community well,” said Steve Diggs, president and CEO of the Emerald Youth Foundation.

The multi-purpose facility would be a place for kids to grow up, have fun and be safe.

“They want to live in a safe community, they want their kids to grow up in a safe community, and have every opportunity as any other child. We know there has been a lot of victims in this community, people who have been victims of violence and we want to turn that around,” said Mayor Madeline Rogero.

Emerald Youth Foundation is working with the city to provide millions of dollars to fund the development plans.

“This community like any neighborhood in our city has this need for comprehensive youth development programs but for children in this community it’s a little bit more difficult for them to get access to some of the programs in other parts of the city so it was important to us to try to ensure that something right in the neighborhood was available in the community for their development,” said Diggs.

The project will feature two synthetic turf multi-purpose fields for soccer, lacrosse, and flag football. It will also have a 30,000 square foot multi-purpose indoor facility with two gymnasiums, a fitness center and a learning center.

Though many in the neighborhood are pleased with the plans, some say they wish they could have been more involved in the planning process.

“The facility from what I see is a great facility. It’s something that Lonsdale needs. The how it came about we’re not so pleased with,” said Churchie Riley.

Rogero says they will be holding planning meetings to make sure everyone’s voice are heard and the development can be a place that everyone can enjoy.

“It’s a huge gift to the community, I believe. It just seems to me the concerns and the needs in this community for what they needed in terms of safe places for the kids to go,” said Rogero.

Emerald Youth Foundation is fronting the bulk of the cost. They’re donating $8 million for the projects, much of that coming from private donors. The rest of the money, $2 million in total, is coming from the city.

The project will have to be approved by City Council as well as the development agreement with Emerald Youth Foundation. The facility and turf fields will take up 10 acres in total.

In the past, Emerald Youth has put together similar projects in the past including the Sansom Sports Complex near Fort Sanders. The facility opened in 2015.

Parents in Lonsdale support the idea of a sports complex. Many say Lonsdale Park on Connecticut Avenue is one of the few safe places to take their kids.

“It really is hard because you never know what is going to happen at places,” said Lareece Dixson, a mother of a one-year-old son.

Dixson said she worries about her son’s safety. However, she said a sports complex may be a safer place for her child. It’s a place young adults, like April Perry, wished she had growing up in Lonsdale.

“Growing up here, I haven’t felt really too safe. Most of the time, if I rarely got to do anything, I would just be out in my front yard,” Perry said.

Perry believed there is a need for a sports complex in the neighborhood. She said it would be good to have one central location for kids to go.


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