The Downtown Boxing Gym on Detroit's east side will unveil a new outdoor sports, learning, and garden complex on Tuesday. // Courtesy of the Downtown Boxing Gym
The Downtown Boxing Gym on Detroit’s east side will unveil a new outdoor sports, learning, and garden complex on Tuesday. // Courtesy of the Downtown Boxing Gym

The Downtown Boxing Gym on Detroit’s east side, a nonprofit organization providing a free, out-of-school-time academic and athletic program to local students, will unveil a new outdoor sports, learning, and garden complex on Tuesday.

The new space, located on three-quarters of an acre at E. Vernor Highway and Meldrum Street (located next to the Downtown Boxing Gym), includes a multi-sport playing field, a learning pavilion, an ice rink, fire pits, and more. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, DBG officials, DICK’S Sporting Goods leaders, and others will be on hand for the 7 p.m. reveal, followed by The UnGala, an annual fundraising event to support DBG.

The outdoor complex will benefit more than 150 students (ages 8-18) who participate in DBG’s free after-school academic and athletic program, which includes individualized a tutoring and mentoring style, whole-child approach.

The project was made possible due to a grant from The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation through its Sports Matter Community Grant program. The program benefits youth sports programs in low-income communities.

Since 2014, DICK’S and The DICK’S Foundation has committed more than $189 million to support youth athletes through its Sports Matter initiative to support youth sports teams, leagues, and programs in local communities throughout the country.

“We are extremely proud to partner with and support the Downtown Boxing Gym. At The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation, we believe that sports make people better and we’re excited to provide a space where kids of all ages can grow and develop their skills both inside and outside the ring,” says Aimee Waters, executive director of The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation.

The Downtown Boxing Gym has occupied its building on E. Vernor since 2015 and has been working for years to maximize the use of its outdoor space. In recent years, DBG purchased three adjacent vacant lots from the city of Detroit and the Detroit Land Bank to expand the outdoor area students use for sports sampling, art projects, science experiments, gardening, nature exploration, and more.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the urgent need for usable outdoor academic and athletic space. In 2020, a brand-new multi-sport court was installed thanks to support from Rocket Community Fund, Nike Community Impact Fund, and individual donors, along with an organic bowl lot through a grant from Detroit Future City.

“Our mission every day at DBG is to provide the tools and resources our students need to succeed. This newly renovated sports complex is game changing. It will enhance everything we do,” said Khali Sweeney, founder and CEO of DBG. “To us, the hour of play we spend with our students doing various activities from boxing to flag football opens the door for the life-changing mentoring, academics, and programs we provide.

“We want to thank DICK’S Sporting Goods and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation for recognizing the need for this renovation and investing in our students and their futures.”

The new outdoor sports complex includes:

  • A large, multi-sport turf field
  • Lighting throughout the complex
  • Pavilion
  • Ice rink
  • Raised-bed gardens
  • Two fire pits with seating
  • Parking lot for DBG’s bus and fleet of vans
  • A shipping container for storage

Construction began in February 2021 and is still ongoing. The remainder of the work, including installation of the pavilion and ice rink, is expected to be completed in the coming months. Premier Group Associates is leading the project.

Founded in 2007, the DBG program focuses on books before boxing and includes tutoring, mentorship, enrichment programs, college and career readiness, healthy meals, transportation, community service, and athletics.

Since the gym opened its doors, 100 percent of participating students have graduated from high school. DBG continues to support its student graduates through age 25 as they attend college or start careers.

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