Bucks, Johnson Controls Open Sport Complex at Westlawn Gardens
A grand opening event on September 7, 2017 provided a large, excited group of children from Browning Elementary the first opportunity to play on a new multi-sport complex in the heart of Westlawn Gardens and Milwaukee’s Choice Neighborhood. The $150,000 complex, including basketball courts, a miniature soccer field, recreational activity space, and a 200 meter track, was created with funding from the Milwaukee Bucks and Johnson Controls. The two community partners have also made a multi-year funding commitment for programmatic support through Silver Spring Neighborhood Center and Playworks.
Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin shared with the children and other local and city stakeholders that the Bucks hope to affect change and add assets to Milwaukee's neighborhoods. George Oliver, the CEO of Johnson Controls, also spoke, emphasizing that the international company is committed to making deep, transformational impact in its local neighborhood.
Alicia Dupies, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility for the Bucks, said that the sport complex is intended to affect “all the residents of Westlawn.” Speaking directly to the elementary school children, she said that the complex was a testament to “how important you are and how much we believe in you.”
Grady Crosby, VP of Public Affairs for Johnson Controls, powerfully evoked the memory and inspiration of Frederick Douglass, the 19th Century social reformer and statesman. Asking the students if they knew about Douglass, nearly every student raised their hand, making MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver and Browning Principal Dr. Raymond Unanka beam with pride. Mr. Crosby ended with a Douglass quote, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” and he called on the children and adults alike to use the sport complex to build both physical health and strong character.
The formal part of the event ended with a creative ribbon cutting that paired project leaders, including HACM’s Willie Hines, with students for a short run through a finish line ribbon. Bucks legend Sidney Moncrief announced the “race” before encouraging the kids to try out all of the games with the help of Playworks, a nonprofit focused on social emotional learning through play.
The event’s finale included a performance by the Milwaukee Bucks dance team and the Rim Rockers, whose trampoline-fueled dunks left the crowd in awe and capped off an impressive unveiling.
This new sport complex at Browning Elementary School and Silver Spring Neighborhood Center is a powerful investment in the Milwaukee’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI). Fueled by a $30 million Choice Neighborhood Implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and over $250 million leveraged from other sources, the Initiative is working to increase quality of life in the Westlawn area by enhancing retail options, building new housing options, improving neighborhood schools, increasing access to healthy foods and health care, reducing crime, improving green spaces and park facilities, and furthering a sense of community throughout the Choice Neighborhood area.