It’s mid-day through a typical weekday and the Sporting Chance Center is filled with the sound of basketballs bouncing off rims, sneakers pounding across wood floors, volleyballs ricocheting off outstretched forearms, teammates cheering each other on.
No one cared about the triple digits outside.
Sporting Chance, with 40,000 square feet of air-conditioned space for basketball, volleyball and some other team sports, opened a year ago in July as a result of a private-public partnership between Tucson Medical Center, Southern Arizona Community Sports and Pima County, as well as the Tucson Conquistadores.
The Center, a hub for tournaments, leagues, camps and clinics, is one of the few places where youngsters can engage in informal play to escape the heat and get some exercise. During the summer, the Center provides an average of 25 hours a week of open play basketball for youngsters ages 12 and older, as well as young adults.
Depending on how the courts are configured, the facility can accommodate five basketball courts or 8 volleyball courts simultaneously.
“In the first 12 months, we’ve more than surpassed our expectations in terms of how much the community is using the facility,” said Operations Manager Tom Carle, noting the facility is currently attracting an average of 20,000 visitors a month, including athletes and spectators. The vast majority of the users are young athletes from club teams, middle schools, high schools and Pima Community College.
With the nonprofit partners sharing in the cost of building the $6 million facility, Pima County donated the land and importantly, subsidizes utilities and handles the major maintenance of the facility. That ongoing assistance allows the facility to keep open play costs to a low $1 for minors and $2 for adults, and to keep court rentals to $25 to $60 an hour, Carle said.
“This was a great example of community partners working together to address a need, but what makes this building a success is the ongoing partnership with Pima County,” Carle said.
The facility is full September through April, and at about 70 percent occupancy in the summer months, Carle said. The site had 1,500 unique individuals participate in open play in less than a year.
“Seeing how much the community is using the facility just shows that there was a real need for this kind of facility for competitive indoor sports,” Carle said.
Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson said the usage the facility is seeing is impressive, particularly since a significant number of patrons are coming from underserved areas with fewer amenities. “Too many people in our community are struggling with chronic diseases, but with the right focus, it is a winnable battle to reverse some of these longstanding challenges.”
Julia Strange, the vice president of Community Benefit for Tucson Medical Center, said the facility fits with the hospital’s mission of enhancing the overall health of the community, particularly since the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment found rates of access to recreational facilities are far below national benchmarks.
“An active lifestyle is an important part of community health, but access can be difficult, particularly in the summer heat,” Strange said. “We were thrilled to be able to help provide an opportunity for young people and adults to get out there and play in a safe environment.”
For more information, please visit sportingchancecenter.org
Photo courtesy of Pima County.