Hoop Center would use basketball as hook to reach youth

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm

The 57,500-square-foot complex would feature six basketball courts, physical fitness equipment, a weight room and educational facilities.
The Hoop Center would be open to the entire community, but would target youth and families in the inner city and the students and staff of the nearby Milwaukee Area Technical College’s downtown campus, said Erin Broome-Shelton, executive director of the Friends of Hoop.
Karl, coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, has signed a letter of intent for the center to be built for an estimated cost of $7.3 million by C.G. Schmidt Construction, Milwaukee.
A preliminary schematic of the Hoop Center was created by architect David Uihlein, son of the late Milwaukee philanthropist Jane Bradley Pettit.
The center would be built as a gift, as a "finder’s fee" from the project’s developers to a limited liability corporation to be formed by Karl, who would then lease the facility to his Friends of Hoop nonprofit corporation.
It was Karl who brought Cleveland real estate developer John Ferchill to Milwaukee to consider the Pabst site earlier this year.
The fitness component of the Hoop Center would be a natural attraction for students and staff at MATC, which does not have such facilities, Broome-Shelton said.
However, she is most excited about the social benefits the center would provide the city.
Plans call for the center to feature a computer room, an educational center and a mentoring program to help youth develop life-supporting skills.
"Our hook is to get them in there, to hook them with basketball, but then give them personal development, career exploration, leadership and civic engagement opportunities," Broome-Shelton said.
"For me, basketball is a teacher of a lot of things that aren’t taught in school," Karl said. "Things like developing leadership, character, discipline and teamwork. The center will be about head coaching – coaching of the head."
Broome-Shelton plans to link with MATC, Milwaukee Public Schools and other community organizations to help youth from the city realize that productive careers await them in the trades.
"We need plumbers, we need electricians …. Kids have got to know that that’s OK to go that route," she said. "We want to partner with existing programs. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel."
The Hoop Center also plans to recruit corporate sponsors to create an educational endowment that would provide savings accounts for children in kindergarten. Over time, the investments would grow and provide funds to send the youth to college, she said.
"I really think that education has to be assisted by business," Karl said.
"It’s about building the economy …. With the high school dropout rates in Milwaukee, what businesses are going to want to come here?" Broome-Shelton said. "That’s a state of emergency for me. You wonder why we’re going to have X million black men in jail? We want to see more businesses involved in education, in mentoring. How many kids in this community are getting exposed to black professionals?"
Karl launched his Friends of Hoop nonprofit organization in Seattle and has since built Hoop Centers in Columbus and Toledo, Ohio.
"But this one in Milwaukee will be the perfected model," Karl said.
Karl is committed to the success of the Milwaukee Hoop Center, regardless of which direction his coaching career takes.
"I’m going to be here. My plan is I’ve got two more years on my contract -that’s six years in this city. That’s a long run in the NBA," Karl said. "But I need to develop a five-year plan for this center, so I’m going to be around here for a few years, at least part-time."

Sept. 27, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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