Flint, MI—Twenty years ago, Linnell Jones-McKenney, a basketball hall of famer and program director for the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, had a dream: to open a sports complex in her hometown of Flint. Her dream will become a reality next fall.

SBEV, an organization that offers youth programs ranging from sports to performing arts, held a community forum on Thursday where they released details about the yet-to-be sports center, dubbed the Flint Sports Complex.

It will include three basketball courts, a half-length football field and seat approximately 600 spectators, Lead Architect John Asselin said. Construction will begin as soon as possible. It will be built adjacent to the SBEV, located at 4119 Saginaw Street, on what is now a parking lot. Doors are set to open fall 2021.

Linnell Jones-McKenney (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“What we’re trying to do is bring back sports to the inner city of Flint, particularly here on the north side,” Executive Director of SBEV Maryum Rasool said. “[We want to] bridge the gap between downtown and the northside.”

Programs will be curated and conducted by Justin Cessante, football director for Legacy Center Sports Complex in Brighton. The organization provides “world-class” facilities and training programs to athletes around the country.

At first, programs will be geared toward basketball, lacrosse, soccer and football, Rasool said. The focus will be on youth, but the Flint Sports Complex will serve as a community center as well, she said.

Membership and program fees will be offered at a free or reduced rate to accommodate residents, Program Officer at LISC Juan Zuniga said.

Maryum Rasool and Mayor Neeley discuss the sports complex at the community forum. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Kenneth Price, a Flint resident who attended yesterday’s forum with his son, said he was there because he wanted his son to learn about the new facility. “We’re real excited about what it’s going to bring to our community. We need more activities where people can monitor and mentor our children [because] some of these neighborhoods are a little rough.”

In January, SBEV received a $250,000 grant to construct an indoor football field courtesy of the Detroit Lions, the National Football League, Foundation Grassroots Program and Local Initiatives Support Corporation. This is the first time the grant has been available to the Flint market, Zuniga said.

The grant was originally for a football field only but the vision for the complex evolved, Zuniga said. Basketball courts and seating were added to the plans in hopes to create a better space for the Flint community, Jones-McKenney said. With the expanded design, the total cost of the complex will run around $8 million, Rasool said.

SBEV is in the process of securing more grants and funding but as of now, it’s full steam ahead, Jones-McKenney said.

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...