Athletic fields

North Austin Community Center sports fields move forward after city sells west side land for $1


AUSTIN — The city council has agreed to sell public land that will help move forward with development of a youth and recreation center on the West Side.

The construction of the north austin community center is underway on land adjacent to 1841 N. Laramie Ave. after the city sold this land for $1 in 2020.

Now the land at 5113 Vacant St. will be sold for $1 to Expert Management Inc., a company that will remediate the property before donating it to the North Austin Community Center.

The $31 million project is being developed through a partnership between By the Hand Club for Kids and the Grace and Peace Church Revival Center, with additional support from Intentional Sports and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives.

The North Austin Community Center will be a state-of-the-art athletic facility that will provide after-school programs and athletic opportunities for area youth. The center will begin to address the lack of programs and facilities for West Side youth, said Grace and Peace Church pastor John Zayas.

“There’s something about having a facility with that kind of quality and expertise and being able to really give kids purpose and hope. They will be able to dream of what they could be,” Zayas said.

A rendering of the batting cages being developed for the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy at the North Austin Youth and Sports Center being developed.

The Vacant Street lot was once the site of the Glidden Paint factory, which left the land “heavily contaminated,” said Mike Parella, a project manager working on the project for the city’s planning department.

Expert Management Inc. has agreed to do the environmental remediation on the land at its own expense, Parella said. The company is a subsidiary of AkzoNobel, the Dutch conglomerate that previously owned the paint factory that contaminated the land.

A By The Hand pavilion being developed at the center is expected to serve at least 400 public school children in the neighborhood. The clubhouse will host after-school programs offering academic assistance, technology classes, tutoring and mentoring.

“Our role in this new facility will be to help our children excel academically while loving them holistically,” said Donnita Travis, Executive Director of By the Hand.

Outside, there will be pitches and courts that are expected to host at least 25,000 participants each year. This last plot sold by the city will eventually become the largest outdoor sports ground in the project.

The campus will include Chicago Fire FC Soccer Field, which will become the city’s only FIFA-regulated indoor turf arena and the largest turf pitch on the West Side. The Fire will also offer at least 20 hours of free weekly community soccer programs on campus.

The Jason Heyward Baseball Academy will also offer athletic training at the center.

“The pandemic and what happened with the riots, our children had no hope. We saw that the children were hopeless. We believe we will give children the opportunity to find some hope,” Zayas said.

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