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New athletic field dedicated at Danny Thomas Park

By La Prensa Staff

For more than two decades, leaders, coaches, and youth have made due with what they had available for sports programs in the Old South End. But on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, those games changed significantly for the better, as local officials dedicated a new youth development complex at Danny Thomas Park, 2151 Broadway Street, Toledo.

 

The park is named after a Lebanese-American comedian, actor, entertainer, and humanitarian, who graduated from Woodward High School and attended the University of Toledo.

 

The multi-partner Rick and Nancy Corbett Athletic Complex presented by Group1001 features a 75,000-square-foot multisport synthetic turf field that will be used for football, soccer, and baseball/softball and provide local youth with a safe outdoor place to play. There are future plans to improve the basketball courts and other sections of the park. Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz called it a “world class sports facility.”  

“I cried, because after 27 years of being on that field and actually cutting the grass and pulling the weeds, I won’t have to do that anymore. It’s turf,” said Tonya Durán, long-time baseball coach and Believe Center executive director. “I was excited.”

The Believe Center currently has 131 kids in its baseball and soccer programs. But poor weather and snow on the ground forced cancellation of a soccer skills demonstration and scrimmage that was scheduled as part of the dedication ceremony.

“They’re the ones who are going to benefit from it,” said Ms. Durán. “They’re really excited about playing on that field. It’s going to get a lot more use because it’s safer grounds now. We won’t have to worry about the potholes in the infield. We won’t have to worry about trees or limbs falling down. It also brings pride back into the (Old) South End because the city did something like that in the South End.”

At the noontime dedication ceremony on Nov. 13, where major-league baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. celebrated the new field with Mayor Kapszukiewicz, former state senator Randy Gardner and other community members attended. But they remained quietly in the background, silently reflecting on what the day meant long-term.

“Sometimes those with deep pockets get the most recognition. That’s okay, because it’s got to come from somewhere,” said Ms. Sabina Elizondo-Serratos, executive director of Adelante, Inc. “But there are also people behind the scenes who make stuff happen. Tonya Durán was one of those. This has been a long, long day in the making. She stayed focused [on the bigger picture].”

“I believed, is what I did. I believed, that as coaches, we made a difference in these kids’ lives,” said Ms. Durán. “There are players who have come back and are coaching for me now. They’re giving back. I was at (a recent event) and someone came up to me and asked if I remembered him. He told me I was the best coach he ever had—and I just cried.”

 

The complex is designed for multisport play, including dugouts, a backstop, digital scoreboard, bleachers, foul poles, soccer goals and field lighting.

 

According to a press release, the facility will serve as the central location for programming offered by the YMCA of Greater Toledo and The Believe Center, “directly supporting thousands of at-risk youth who are exposed to high-risk factors, such as above-average crime rates, families living below the poverty line, and a high number of children being raised in single-parent homes.” The athletic complex is the first and only one of its kind in Ohio, according to the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.

 

Afterschool programming, such as organized team sports, also will be a part of the equation. Such organized activities serve as a powerful alternative during widely unsupervised time between 3 and 6 p.m. Research suggests 29 percent of all violent crime committed by juvenile offenders occurs during those hours.

 

The Historic South Initiative became one of the driving forces behind the project, bringing in some heavy hitters behind the scenes to provide funding, including the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation; St. John’s Jesuit High School alumni, including Rick Corbett, for whom the athletic complex is named, the city of Toledo, and state government through a capital improvement budget grant.

 

Other funders included: Group1001, the Andersons Fund Supporting Organization, Owens Corning, Owens-Illinois (O-I), ProMedica and KeyBank. The Ripken Foundation has completed 90 multipurpose synthetic turf facilities in 23 states and Washington D.C.

The Believe Center director is among those who secured a $200,000 grant from state lawmakers to help fund the project. She recalled she didn’t know what to say during an interview in Columbus when the funds were at stake. But she was blunt and direct with state senators and representatives who would make those capital funding decisions.

“I told them, ‘You took Libbey [High School] away. You took Newbury [elementary school] away. You took Westfield [elementary] away. And you took Jones [junior high school] away. Now you’re taking Marshall [elementary] away because it’s becoming a STEM (academy). What do our kids have?’ It’s not fair,” she recalled. “I’ve realized that the words we use and the questions we ask are powerful. That’s what I teach my kids now.”

But Tonya Durán also showed her student-athletes firsthand what can happen if you use powerful words and ask the right questions to achieve good in the community.

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/19/19 20:36:00 -0800.

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