Check out the new Bucks-built sports complex at MPS’ Browning Elementary

On a bright and pleasant Thursday morning, the Bucks and Johnson Controls held a grand opening ceremony for a new $150,000 multi-sport complex on the campus of MPS’ Browning Elementary School and Silver Spring Neighborhood Center in Milwaukee’s redeveloping Westlawn neighborhood. And after Bucks President Peter Feigin and Johnson Controls CEO George Oliver announced the completion of the project, for which construction had been ongoing since late May, the fun really got going.

Alicia Dupies, the team’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, asked the 100 assembled Browning students – seated looking spiffy in their blue and white collared shirts and khakis, with some wearing school blazers – to raise their hands if they liked playing basketball, and soccer, and volleyball and other sports. Naturally, every hand eagerly shot up. “We built this for all of you,” Dupies said, “because we believe in each of you.” She then polled them on their favorite Bucks players – “No. 34,” Giannis Antetokounmpo, a couple kids said; “Jabari Parker,” another shouted – and Dupies used the stars as models of hard work, practice and discipline.

Then, charismatic Grady Crosby, Johnson Controls’ vice president of public affairs and its chief diversity officer, took the stage, asked the students to tell him what they knew about Frederick Douglass and cited one of the renowned African-American abolitionist, author and orator’s famous quotes. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” Crosby said, before leading them in a “strong children!” chant, as the enthusiasm grew.

And finally – after Silver Spring Neighborhood Center basketball legend and current 6-foot-8 Milwaukee Washington High School freshman Michael Foster dunked in the first basket on the new court to great cheers, and once MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver, along with city leader Willie Hines, Bucks executive Alex Lasry and a few students had run a short race to cut the ceremonial finish-line ribbon – the excitement exploded, with the kids bursting out to shoot hoops, kick balls, play four square and tag, run relay races and experience the new recreation space and equipment for the first time.

Bucks great Sidney Moncrief walked around the spotless blacktop – painted with the team’s blue, green and cream-colored trim – pretending to miss layups against smiling hoopsters half his size. Members of the Playworks staff engaged groups of children in different activities. Bango high-fived everyone in arm’s reach. And various school administrators, Bucks and Johnson Controls representatives and other community figures mingled, while the team DJ spun tracks nearby.

In all, the new complex includes six basketball courts, one futsal court, a soccer field and additional recreation space, all contained within a 200-meter track and featuring Bucks and Johnson Controls branding. It is configured to allow flexibility for use of other sports, such as volleyball and tennis, and will be well lit to provide a safe environment for play during evening hours, as well.

“This space is something that we imagine will be used for years and years to come,” Dupies said. “Perhaps the most important aspect is that we know that sports of all types can directly contribute to positive youth development. The programming that will be provided by both Playworks and Silver Spring Neighborhood Center will ensure that children are engaged in active learning and have opportunities for skill building and to foster cultural competence and healthy and safe play.”

According to the Bucks, the multi-sport complex is part of a larger commitment by the team and Johnson Controls that includes an annual gift of $60,000 for the next 10 years toward community programming. In the first three years, two annual grants of $30,000 each will be given to Playworks to fund programming at Browning Elementary, as well as the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, which will provide after-hours and weekend programming. The grants are to ensure the complex features supportive relationships and proven programming designed to maximize the value of the space for the surrounding Westlawn area.

“We are excited about the grand opening of the multipurpose court because it elevates the neighborhood around it, but we are even more excited about the years of programming that the Bucks and Johnson Controls are funding,” Crosby said. “We recognize that coaching and mentoring have the potential to be transformative. We are not investing in a playground; we are investing in the youth of this neighborhood.

Here are 17 photos from Thursday’s opening of the new multi-sport complex at Browning Elementary School:

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