PULLMAN — The Amateur Athletic Union and Chicago Sports Alliance plan to make the year-old Pullman Community Center its Midwest headquarters, bringing youth tournaments to the Far South Side, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) announced Wednesday.
The new agreement makes the community center at 10355 S. Woodlawn Ave. the primary destination for the AAU Midwest Championship Basketball tournament for the first time. The center will host this summer’s tournament. There will also be new year-round programs, leagues, clinics and other tournaments as part of the agreement.
“This is just adding a whole other realm of excitement and newness,” said Beale. “Playing indoor sports year round will produce a better athlete because they’re going to get so much more training and exposure that they didn’t get.”
This partnership is a result of a seven- to eight-month process that all began with AAU officials visiting the community center for an upcoming event, according to Jo Mirza, national treasurer of the AAU.
“They looked at the facility and said ‘Wow, what a phenomenal facility,” said Mirza. “This is going to bring thousands of people to the community.”
According to Beale, there will not only be the opportunity to grow as an athlete, but also grow as a student.
“We have a tutoring component to go with this, it’s not just about sports,” said Beale. “We’re going to help them with their class work, help them pass the SAT and we’re going to help them get into these selective enrollment schools.”
The AAU programming will be under the AAU Urban / County Initiative, led by Mirza, which began in 2015. The goal of the program is to give kids affected by socio-economic or other hardships the opportunity to participate in the AAU.
“You want to give them the best opportunities to play and learn new skills,” said Mirza.
The partnership is not only expected to benefit the kids of Pullman. It’s also projected to have a multi-million dollar impact on the area. The first step to this is an AAU investment of over $900,000 that will be spent in bringing more courts into the community center for upcoming tournaments between April and September, according to Beale.
“Right now we only have three courts, the AAU will be bringing in nine more courts so we can have a total of 120 teams playing in a tournament over a weekend and that’s just basketball,” said Beale.
The courts will be built within the existing center, over the artificial turf used during the winter months for soccer and other sports. AAU will cover the cost of the new courts.
More than 4,000 AAU organizations across the country will be informed about the new facility and new tournaments, potentially bringing in thousands of visitors to Pullman, Beale said. That has the alderman thinking about trying to land a hotel, he said.
“We already have a study going on right now because I can tell you without question that we need at least two hotels,” said Beale. “We’re going to have people coming from out of town on a weekly basis and they need a hotel close by rather than traveling 15 to 20 minutes to get to the facility.”