The Baltimore Ravens and the Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation announced Thursday that they had donated $20 million to the The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore to create one of their clubs at the Hilton Recreation Center in West Baltimore.
The money will pay for a renovation of the center that will include new athletic fields, activity and game spaces, tutoring spaces and indoor and outdoor gathering spaces for the community.
The recreation center was closed for more than 10 years until the parks department partnered with former Ravens player Torrey Smith and his wife Chanel and their nonprofit LEVEL82 in 2020 to reopen it. The nonprofit provided academic aid, athletic and enrichment activities, mental health services and social services to the center and will continue to operate at the recreation center and will have space in the new club.
Pamela Green, a lifelong West Baltimore resident, said she saw children turn from introverts to extroverts through the programming and hopes that kind of work will only be enhanced under the Boys & Girls Clubs partnership.
“Youth need a place to feel safe, thrive and be vulnerable and show their feelings,” said Green, president of Carrollton Manor Neighborhood Improvement Association, at a news conference announcing the funding.
The Boys & Girls Clubs’ youth programming will focus on areas like health and wellness, art, academic success, recreation and workforce readiness.
Sashi Brown, president of the Ravens, said the club comes with years of work that they’re proud of and it speaks to the team’s commitment to communities.
Being able to announce the collaborative project, Smith said, was “surreal.” There are a lot of people doing things in Baltimore, he said, but “not a lot of people are doing things together.”
Inside the recreation center, white walls were plastered with various youths’ artwork. Mayor Brandon Scott said he “knows first-hand what recreation centers mean to young people in Baltimore.” He remembers not having a track at his high school.
Along with other neighborhood sports leagues, the nearby Green Street Academy will be able to use the athletic facilities as the home court and field for their sports teams. Currently, the school has to travel to other locations to use facilities.
“I’m just looking forward to walking out with our kids and the entire school on that field and say, ‘We have something we can all call home,’ ” said Denisha Logan, executive director at Green Street Academy. Logan added that she’s looking forward to the area becoming an “epicenter in West Baltimore” and to the academy continue to be an anchor institution that works with other groups in the community. She was joined by several students from the academy, which was founded in 2010 and serves over 800 students, who sported long-sleeve white Under Armour shirts with the Ravens logo.
The Boys & Girls Club is looking to raise an additional $10 million toward the project and expects to begin construction later this year and complete the renovation by the end of 2024.
“When this comes to life, it will be a hub of activities and a hub of opportunities,” said Jeff Breslin, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore.