BGC construction at least two years away

Nadia Colom (standing), executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Golden Triangle, talks with selectmen about the agency's preferred site for a permanent center in West Point.
Staff Writer

A permanent Boys and Girls Club may have a preferred site for a home in West Point, but it will be at least two years before construction could start on a building.

West Point Selectmen have agreed in principle to working with the group on the 4.77-acre Sportsmans Park on Fifth Street.

While a memorandum of understanding still must be finalized, the property will revert back to the city if it ever ceases to be used by the BGC of the Golden Triangle, the parent organization that has been working for a year to revive a chapter in West Point for the first time in about 15 years.

BGC Executive Director Nadia Colom, a West Point native, discussed the proposal with selectmen during a study session Monday night.

While the organization is finalizing plans and staff for a summer program at Fifth Street Junior High for up to 200 kids this summer, it is trying to pin down long-term plans so it can ramp up fund raising.

Building a 12,000-square-foot building with a gym, full-service kitchen and a half dozen activity rooms, similar to its Columbus facility, will cost at least $500,000, Colom told the board.

The organization originally was going to take a large building on Church Hill Road from the city, but it's renovation costs and location made it not as feasible, or desirable, as the Fifth Street location.

"It's nothing short of a half million dollar project, if not more. We are hoping for some in-kind labor and partnerships to help cover the costs," she said.

"I don't see putting a shovel in dirt for at least two years, not until we have the money and plans in place," Colom continued.

Raising the same concerns she's voiced previously, Selectwoman Leta Turner said she's worried about displacing youth football leagues that practice at the baseball park. She said she'd like detailed plans worked out before the deal is finalized.

"This is an existing program for at least 12 years," she said of the youth football league. "I'd like to know if this is the best option overall for the big picture."

In response a question from Turner asked about other properties that were considered, Colom responded that she'd sent each member of the board a letter detailing those sites and the issues with them.

She said the Fifth Street site was best for several reasons, including proximity to two nearby elementary schools, adjacent to the city's walking trail and civic center, easy access to nearby Marshall Park, a central location for the entire city, and being within walking distance of two public housing neighborhoods.

"It would be different if we were proposing a strip mall, but this is something improving services to youth and the neighborhood," Colom said, noting the BGC would be willing to include a practice field in its plans to offer more opportunities for youth leagues.

"We are moving toward a more academic focus, but it's still about recreation and sports. Our facility may encourage more kids to get involved in the football program," Colom stated.

Selectman William Binder noted the facility would be an asset, providing a "much-needed" gym in the area.

Finalizing the location also removes fund-raising stumbling blocks.

"Getting this started lets them take advantage of the momentum they've got, to keep it going," Selectman Jasper Pittman said, referring to the $10,000 check Mississippi State University women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer wrote to the BGC after the team surpassed $110,000 in attendance this season.

"That was big, I was at that game," added Selectman Keith McBrayer, prompting Colom to say that presentation has generated others to express interest in backing Schaefer's support.