Columbia Boys & Girls Club begins expansion project

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COLUMBIA - The Boys & Girls Club in Columbia began demolishing the Sonic on Business Loop Thursday morning in order to expand its building by about 14,000 square feet. This will more than double the size of the club's building. 

The new space will include many new amenities, including a recording studio, kitchen, larger cafeteria, indoor basketball gymnasium and a full performing arts stage. The kids will also have access to computers and tutors in the new facility.

Columbia Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Valorie Livingston said this expansion is geared toward creating a space for the teens that visit the center.

"We have a lot of elementary kids that come to the Boys & Girls Club, and they come for five or 10 years, but once they hit junior high and they begin that transition, really we don’t have enough space to offer age-appropriate programs for older tweens and teens," Livingston said. "So this expansion is going to include adding space specifically for those programs."

Livingston said the expansion, as well as the entire club, is fully supported through charitable donations.

"We have to fundraise all of our dollars to run our programs, as well as to build this expansion," Livingston said. "We are still seeking donations to support the project, there are a lot of internal furnishings that we need to raise dollars for."

Coil Construction is doing the demolition and construction work. 

Livingston said the club is going to use this project as a learning opportunity for the kids. 

"This is a wonderful career exploration project for them to be involved with," Livingston said. "We are going to video and also include them in every aspect of what it means to build a facility like that, and hopefully that’ll be some great employment opportunity for them to understand what trades are out there and what training that might require."

Livingston said she believes this expansion will help many children in Columbia. 

"We feel like this is going to be a transformational expansion for our community," Livingston said. "This is going to allow us to serve thousands of kids every year."

Livingston said she hopes the project will be completed before the next school year starts. 

Our timeline is to try to get this expansion completed by labor day," Livingston said. "So that we can open up that expansion, and dedicate it and celebrate our 20 year anniversary, which is this year."

 Columbia Boys & Girls Club Operations Director Deronne Wilson said he is excited about the expansion.

"I really want people to understand that it's more than just Boys & Girls expansion," Wilson said. "It'll be like a community center."

Wilson said he hopes to be able to partner with other organizations to use the space.

"The goal is to serve more youth," Wilson said.