By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – By summer, the Tupelo Police Athletic League will graduate to a new and bigger space.
Construction crews are slated to start work Monday to renovate the building behind the Link Centre that previously housed Salvation Army’s after-school program.
The contract calls for completion by May 24.
In the PAL program, volunteer police officers and firefighters provide sports programs for youth.
“This will put us in a recreational space,” said Sgt. Michael Russell, the executive director for the Tupelo Police Athletic League. “It will nearly double the square-footage for us,” from 9,500 to 17,000 square feet.
In its current space in a repurposed Robert E. Lee Drive warehouse, there’s only room for one program at a time, Russell said. The larger facility, located behind the Link Centre, will allow PAL to expand its after-school and summer offerings.
“It’s an exciting challenge,” Russell said.
Currently, PAL offers basketball three afternoons a week and boxing two afternoons a week, serving about 55 to 75 children during the school year. In 2012, the summer camp programs reached 220 children.
“Our primary focus is sixth through eighth grade,” Russell said, but they do have younger and older students who participate in the programs.
The winning construction bid from CIG Contractors of Corinth for $477,000 came in just below the amount budgeted for construction.
The city bought the building from the Salvation Army last fall for $225,000, allowing the nonprofit organization to shed the expense of the building and kick-start its campaign to expand its homeless shelter.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Russell said.
The construction will include a new roof, refinishing the wood floors in the gym, new heating and cooling and renovating bathrooms and the electrical system in the building that was part of the original Harrisburg Baptist Church campus.
Philips (Daybrite) is providing the lighting at a significant discount. Sherwin Williams is donating the paint for the space.
“We’re excited,” Russell said. “It would cost us $2.5 to $3 million to build from scratch.”
If construction finishes on time, PAL will have time to move during its seasonal downtime between the end of school and the start of its summer camps.
“It’s not going to hinder our after-school program,” Russell said.