The agreement by ESPN to help build a new Bristol Boys and Girls Club on West Street was hailed by several municipal candidates this week.
Republican mayoral contender Mary Alford called the project “the best way to develop a community.”
“Whenever a large corporate entity like ESPN, who is our city’s largest taxpayer, can partner with a community-based organization like the Boys and Girls Club it becomes a win-win for all, especially for our kids,” Alford said.
Derek Czenczelewski, a 3rd District GOP City Council candidate, said, “This contribution, along with the hours of volunteer work ESPN provides proves that ESPN is committed not only to Bristol, but the youth around the entire region and country for that matter.”
Mayor Art Ward, a first-term Democrat seeking reelection on November 3, said this week’s announcement by ESPN “is the greatest thing that’s happened” during his two years in office.
Ward said the new building will offer “a great start” to plans for improvements in the struggling West End.
He said he’s sure the city itself will wind up offering some help, too.
“This opportunity is facilitated by the city and the state and is the best way to move community projects like this forward instead of relying on things like a government stimulus, “ Alford said.
All three candidates had kind words for the club, which has been searching for a way to move out of its increasingly antiquated Laurel Street headquarters for years.
Czenczelewski said the club “is a great organization that has helped shape the lives of countless individuals today. Having experienced the Boys and Girls Club both as a member and a volunteer in Hartford, I can attest to the positive attitudes and values that make up the club.”
He said the willingness of the club and ESPN to help youth in the community is longstanding.
The candidates each said the change offers hope for more downtown revitalization.
“A new Boys and Girls Club will help further jumpstart our downtown redevelopment initiative, as it will give the youth of Bristol more structured activities to partake in outside of school, a top-notch facility in which to do so, and will give parents the peace of mind that their children are in a safe and positive environment outside of school and the home. All parties involved in this are winning, which is very nice to see,” Czenczelewski said.
Alford said the new building will free up space “for future enhancements” downtown and build support for a project on the city-owned Depot Square, where the mall once stood.
“The space on Laurel Street offers many options for developers to incorporate into the overall project” Alford said.
Czenczelewski concluded that, “Retail, housing and office space are essential in downtown. The young professionals that continue to leave Bristol, and the estimated $100 million spent yearly by Bristol residents outside city borders can be kept here in Bristol. I plan on working with all involved parties to ensure that downtown is a success, and that includes ESPN.”
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org