After a trip to Legacy Youth Tennis and Education last year, Eric Worley had a vision.
Joined by Legacy’s president and CEO Kenny Holdsman (above), Worley walked the halls of the East Falls complex and was impressed by the programs and amenities offered.
When Worley left, he wanted to replicate the facility. But instead of tennis, the founder and executive director of Triple Threat Foundation, an organization serving Philadelphia youth through education and sports, focused on basketball.
“We are about developing kids as leaders, as people, as students,” said Holdsman, who serves as Philadelphia Youth Basketball’s president and CEO. “That package of support hasn’t been put together very well in the overwhelming majority of schools or recreation centers.”
Soon after the visit, Alvin Williams, Doug Young and Steve Rosenberg joined Worley and Holdsman to become the founding members of Philadelphia Youth Basketball. The group announced its plans in December 2015 for a sports and education complex on the Logan Triangle.
“When I travel to these cities and see all these multipurpose basketball facilities and with Philly being the basketball city we are, we don’t have anything of that sort,” said Worley, the group’s program director.
PYB hopes to raise $25 million to construct a 20,000-square-foot facility with eight indoor and six outdoor basketball courts, classrooms, a library, a computer lab, a pediatric center, a health and wellness office, and a Philadelphia Basketball Hall of Fame.
The group has raised $750,000 and will hold “April Madness,” a Charity Basketball Tournament on April 9 at the Palestra.
“It will give children more to do,” said Helen Hutchins, 58, a resident of Logan for more than 30 years. “Instead of hanging on the corner, they will focus on academic, cooking, mentoring. They offer a lot of things that our community is lacking right now.”
The Logan Triangle, named for its shape, covers nearly 17 blocks in the heart of North Philadelphia and covers 40 acres of land. The area is bounded by Louden Street to the north, Wingohocking Street to the south, Roosevelt Boulevard on the southeast, Marshall Street on the east, and 11th Street on the west.
Below the area’s homes is a 60-foot layer of coal ash and cinder that piled on top of the Wingohocking Creek. Houses began sinking in the 1950s and by the 1980s, they began to lean.
Then on Feb. 14, 1986, a ruptured gas main exploded, destroying two homes and damaging two others. Officials, citing a study of the area’s stability, urged residents to leave. This set off a 10-year exodus with the city spending $38 million to buy and demolish houses and pay for relocation costs.
Since then, numerous attempts to revitalize the area have been proposed. A project by Logan CDC and Wallace Roberts and Todd received a grant from Wells Fargo Regional, but it failed to advance due to lack of financial commitment.
Charlene Samuels, president of Logan Civic Association, has lived in Logan for 23 years and is hopeful of the effect PYB can have.
“If anything, it will enhance the area,” Samuels said. “What we have there now is absolutely nothing. Anything that is put on that property will be an enhancement.”
PYB choose Logan because of its location. The spot is 35 minutes or less from most neighborhoods in either the city or immediate region. The Logan Triangle also accessible by several bus routes and is within a mile of the Wyoming Station on the Broad Street Line.
“We wanted to be geographically accessible to kids anywhere,” Holdsman said. “The bigger reason, though, is we always felt that the youth development work, it had the ability to connect both to workforce development and to neighborhood development.”
The land in Logan is owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, who selected the Goldenberg Group to develop the site in September 2015.
The area, Worley admits, has become an eyesore.
“So to be able to revitalize that area with this amazing space would not only be beneficial to the kids who use the buildings, but to the overall neighborhood,” he said.
Currently, PYB has a pilot program in four schools in the area: James G. Blaine Elementary School, Jay Cooke Elementary School, Paul L. Dunbar School and the William D. Kelley School.
“It’s a great thing,” Temple University men’s basketball head coach Fran Dunphy said. “We are trying to get a hold of those young people that are underserved in the Philadelphia community who can use some guidance. We are using basketball as the conduit.”
Ten kids from each school were chosen to participate in the program. They meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at the school site doing basketball skill building and a literacy curriculum. On Saturdays, the group meets at Pearson McGonigle Hall at Temple University for games and spoken word youth expression with Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement.
“It’s a great thing for the youth in Philadelphia to be a part of,” Dunphy said.
With the help of donors and support of the community, PYB hopes to break ground on the site in two years and Holdsman hopes to open the doors on the facility in 2019.
“We wanted a center than is a bonafide one-stop shot,” Holdsman said. “The needs of young people can be met. Kids need something really special.”
— Text, video and images by Michael Guise and Mark McCormick.
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