HARLINGEN — The Boys and Girls Club is growing too big for the hundreds of children who play its courts.
Now, Gerald Gathright, the executive director who joined the nonprofit club 43 years ago, says he’s planning to host about 1,000 youths at the Fair Park club and its award-winning branch at the Le Moyne Gardens public housing development this summer.
“There’s not enough room,” Gathright said Thursday. “It gets crazy. We manage because we do scheduling tricks. Everything is rush-rush.”
Last week, amid funding concerns, city commissioners approved Gathright’s request for $200,000 to help fund construction of a 6,500-square-foot gymnasium and a canopy to cover some basketball courts at Fair Park.
The new gym will help the club better operate its popular sports leagues, he said.
“The city’s stepping in is fantastic,” Gathright said. “It’s going to allow us to complete most of the project and get it done in a timely manner. We’re going to be able to provide sports league games year-round more safely and efficiently.”
New gym, covered courts
During last week’s meeting, commissioners unanimously approved $100,000 for construction of the gym with restrooms and $100,000 for a pre-fabricated canopy to cover the Fair Park club’s east-side basketball courts.
“This is a worthwhile investment,” Mayor Chris Boswell told commissioners during the March 4 meeting.
The club, Boswell said, “is fulfilling some objectives that we have set forth and that’s providing a safe location where youth in the community can play and learn.”
As part of the overall $1.35 million project, the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation will fund $800,000, Gathright said.
“Our ultimate goal is to more safely and efficiently serve those who need us most — our children — and help them reach their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens,” Gathright told commissioners during a 30-minute presentation. “We want to provide a safe, positive place every day for every child.”
The new building will serve as the club’s third gym, he said.
“It’s pretty crowded in there when you go for games,” Gathright told commissioners, adding the club also holds basketball league games at its Le Moyne branch, a move that robs children there of playing time. “Our season takes four months to run with a basketball league because we just don’t have the space. We want to alleviate that.”
Meanwhile, Commissioners Frank Puente and Richard Uribe questioned the city’s financing plan for the project coming seven months after commissioners passed a $47.8 million general fund budget.
In response, City Manager Dan Serna proposed funding the project through the city’s $20 million fund balance, planning to offset the expenditure during next year’s budget cycle.
The project will help develop the city’s plans to build a multimillion-dollar destination park alongside the Boys and Girls Club.
Amid debate, Uribe proposed using the club’s covered basketball courts instead of funding construction of some of the destination park’s planned courts.
In a press release, Boswell stated the club’s shaded courts will help “enhance” the destination park.