Boys and Girls Clubs may receive new gym

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COLUMBIA - The Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbia provides kids a safe place to play, learn and grow.

The lack of space inside the club on North Seventh Street, however, slows the growing process.

Executive Director Valorie Livingston said the amount of indoor playing space becomes crucial when it is raining outside and during the winter season.

"In Missouri weather, it's very difficult to run program activities outside with the constant rain or weather shifting from hot to cold and the long winter months. It really eliminates our opportunity to run any kind of sports and recreation programs for the kids," Livingston said.

Staff member Michael Simpkins interacts with the kids on a daily basis. He also believes the lack of indoor space is a big issue. 

"Especially during the winter seasons when it's too cold to go outside necessarily or even if it's bad weather, we're kind of crammed in close quarters," Simpkins said.

Livingston believes an indoor gym would provide more playing room and help solve what she sees as a lack of alternative recreation spaces for the kids in Columbia.

"There really isn't any place that can partner and provide gym space, and if you do rent it out, it's very costly," Livingston said.

Sports and Fitness Coordinator Girard Johnson believes a new gym would improve academic performance as well. He said one of the biggest problems is that the kids tend to talk to each other when doing school work.

Staff members said the gym would also help keep kids safe. They say the outdoor basketball courts are dangerous because of their close proximity to the street, and kids run the risk of being hit by a car when they chase after a ball. 

"Being able to have an indoor facility will help provide more safety and more control," Livingston said.

Livingston said the club is in the final stages of its architectural plan for the gym. She said some features of the potential gym include a dance studio, a teen center room and more room to prepare meals for the kids. Livingston said the club hopes to kick off its capital improvement project campaign in January 2016.

Livingston said the public can help raise funds or make a donation to the capital campaign by contacting her or the club. The first rough estimate cost of the project is approximately $1,500,000.