A little over a year after unveiling plans for a $80 million athletic center on Milwaukee’s north side, dubbed The Opportunity Center, the organizers behind the project are getting a $5 million boost toward their fundraising goal from Bader Philanthropies, Inc.
The Opportunity Center leadership has not yet shared how much money has been raised for the project thus far, and totals were not readily available Wednesday.
The 300,000-square-foot facility is planned for 4206 N. Green Bay Ave., at the intersection of I-43, Green Bay Avenue and Capitol Drive – near the border of Milwaukee and Glendale. The center would be designed to make programming accessible to those with physical and developmental disabilities.
Project leaders include Franklin Cumberbatch, vice president of engagement for Bader Philanthropies, and Damian Buchman, founder of Wauwatosa-based The Ability Center.
“Franklin and I have both experienced the transformational impact that belonging to an athletic community can have on a child’s trajectory in life,” said Buchman. “We see a tremendous opportunity to replicate this experience for thousands of young people in our community that are facing tough odds, and we know it can inspire them to greatness too.”
The Opportunity Center’s lobby will include a space for community congregation, built intentionally to make all ages, abilities, races, genders and faiths feel welcomed. Access to the second floor will include a spiral walkway that will be accessible to people of all abilities. Design plans also include wide hallways and spaces throughout the center to accommodate travel for people of all abilities and those using mobility devices and/or athletic equipment.
The second floor will house spaces for education, mentorship and community gatherings. Another highlight of the center will be a 300-meter track and field facility that is universally inclusive. The Opportunity Center leadership hopes to have the facility built at some point during 2025, but that timeline is tentative.
The Opportunity Center has also officially named its president and CEO. David Cooks, past board chair of the organization, will now help lead the nonprofit. At age 15, Cooks was a rising high school basketball star when he experienced a spinal aneurysm. He is now a motivational speaker and educator, who has also built a successful career in finance.
“We’re going to supplement what kids are involved in during the school year,” said Cooks. “The Opportunity Center will serve the whole person, not just serve to develop athletes. Ideally, we’d love to see people of all abilities from Milwaukee and the surrounding municipalities of Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and Glendale running around a 300-meter track. I see young children, disabled veterans and all races being active together, and having interactions you do not see anywhere else in our community.”
The Opportunity Center will hold community listening sessions later this year and next year to gather feedback on topics including potential programming.
[gallery size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="556243,556241,556240,539415"]