At­lanta Fal­cons do­nate to Cousins gym project

$250,000 to help re­ha­bil­i­tate re­build­ing

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Rachel Oswald

The ef­fort to re­build the old R.L. Cousins High School gym was re­cently given a large help­ing hand thanks to the At­lanta Fal­cons Youth Foun­da­tion’s do­na­tion of $250,000 to the project.

While the Cousins Com­mu­nity Cen­ter cur­rently houses a satel­lite cam­pus for Troy Univer­sity and of­fices of the De­part­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles, the gym has re­mained empty.

The grant will be used to re­ha­bil­i­tate the gym, which has fallen into se­vere dis­re­pair. Once con­struc­tion im­prove­ments are com­plete Project Ad­ven­ture, a lo­cal non­profit that houses and ed­u­cates at risk youth, and the New­ton County Re­cre­ation De­part­ment will jointly share the gym.

A $500,000 Spe­cial Pur­pose Lo­cal Op­tion Sales Tax al­lo­ca­tion has also been des­ig­nated for the project.

An af­fil­i­ate of The Arthur M. Blank Fam­ily Foun­da­tion, the At­lanta Fal­cons Youth Foun­da­tion is specif­i­cally fo­cus­ing on the is­sue of child­hood obe­sity. To that end the foun­da­tion has en­cour­aged non­prof­its to sub­mit grant ap­pli­ca­tions for sports field and fa­cil­i­ties de­vel­op­ment projects.

John Bare, vice pres­i­dent for Strate­gic Plan­ning and Eval­u­a­tion of The Arthur M. Blank Fam­ily Foun­da­tion, de­scribed the grant process as very com­pet­i­tive, with the Cousins project com­pet­ing against 12 other sports field de­vel­op­ment projects. The Cousins project was the only one se­lected to re­ceive fund­ing from the foun­da­tion this year.

Bare said the Cousins project stood out to the grant se­lec­tion com­mit­tee be­cause of “the re­mark­able col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the com­mu­nity cen­ter and the Parks and Re­cre­ation De­part­ment to make sure the gym­na­sium is go­ing to be used seven days a week.”

Ac­cord­ing to Project Ad­ven­ture Di­rec­tor Cindy Simp­son, the county Re­cre­ation De­part­ment and Project Ad­ven­ture part­nered up to write the grant.

“The Re­cre­ation De­part­ment has been great,” Simp­son said. “To me it re­ally shows a good ef­fort on part­ner­ships within a com­mu­nity to get some­thing done. They have a need. We have a need. We can share it and we’re sav­ing a his­tor­i­cal site at the same time.”

Simp­son said Project Ad­ven­ture would use the gym­na­sium dur­ing the day for phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion classes. Dur­ing the evening hours and on week­ends the gym will be open for the use of the Re­cre­ation De­part­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Tommy Hai­ley, New­ton County Re­cre­ation De­part­ment di­rec­tor, the Cousins Cen­ter has signed a longterm lease with the Re­cre­ation De­part­ment for the gym.

Hai­ley said he en­vi­sioned the Re­cre­ation De­part­ment us­ing the re­fur­bished gym for sev­eral things in­clud­ing a satel­lite re­cre­ation cen­ter down the road as well as an­other lo­ca­tion for bas­ket­ball games. The de­part­ment cur­rently has two dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions for its bas­ket­ball games.

“The bas­ket­ball pro­gram has seen so much growth that the gym­na­sium will be a wel­come ad­di­tion for us,” Hai­ley said. “Growth there is un­real.”

Hai­ley said he also be­lieved the gym­na­sium could be used as a com­mu­nity cen­ter.

Hai­ley said the Re­cre­ation De­part­ment is work­ing with Peter H. Hand and As­so­ciates (the ar­chi­tec­tural firm which de­signed the Turner Lake Cen­ter) on de­signs for the Cousins gym. Hai­ley said he ex­pects to sign a con­tract with the firm in the next month.

Whether the $750,000 al­ready raised for the project will be enough to com­pletely re­ha­bil­i­tate the gym re­mains to be seen.

Hai­ley said he wouldn’t know just how much it would cost to re­build the gym un­til a con­trac­tor was brought onto the project and ex­am­ined the site. Hai­ley said he ex­pected the gym would need a new floor and wa­ter pipes among other things.

“I think ev­ery­thing’s go­ing to de­pend on what kinds of headaches and prob­lems you get,” Hai­ley said. “What­ever bud­get we’ve got to work with we will make do with. $750,000 will take us a long way to get­ting that gym re­stored.”

Simp­son said Project Ad­ven­ture would con­tinue ef­forts to raise an ad­di­tional $500,000 for the project.

“You name it, it needs it,” Simp­son said of the gym’s cur­rent state.

LaRhonda Jack­son, com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for the At­lanta Fal­cons, said a ten­ta­tive date for the check pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony has been set for Dec. 6 at the Cousins Cen­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to Bare, The At­lanta Fal­cons Youth Foun­da­tion in­vests $2 mil­lion a year in non­profit pro­grams across Ge­or­gia, which are ded­i­cated to im­prov­ing phys­i­cal fit­ness.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the At­lanta Fal­cons Youth Foun­da­tion visit www.afyf.org.

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