The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center Celebrates Grand Opening
The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center on the South Side of Chicago officially opened with a full weekend of public festivities on Saturday, June 16, and Sunday, June 17. More than 4,000 people participated in the weekend celebrations.
The weekend began with a Grand Opening Ceremony and Ribbon Cutting on Saturday, June 16. The Salvation Army joined members of Joan Kroc's family, elected officials, community residents, donors and supporters to cut the ribbon on the state-of-the-art facility, which includes the largest array of sports, arts, educational and supportive programs for the public anywhere in the city in a single community center campus.
The Grand Opening Ceremony began with a welcome from campaign co-chair Judy Keller. Judy, and her co-chair Paul Rigby, has tirelessly dedicated the last five years to The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. Throughout, she has remained steadfast and optimistic in her support and she has never wavered in her ability to inspire and challenge those around her.
"The Kroc Center has been a labor of love," said Judy. "Throughout the long journey from Groundbreaking to Grand Opening, I drew strength and guidance from my faith in God. And I drew inspiration from the vision and the example of a truly remarkable woman - Joan Kroc."
The Salvation Army paid tribute to Joan Kroc with a special presentation to her granddaughter, Amanda Latimer. Amanda's 11-year-old son shared with the crowd his memories of his great-grandmother and Amanda read a touching and inspiring letter her grandmother wrote to her on her 21st birthday that said, "Serve others joyously and your reward will be great. Carry with you the message of charity and brotherly love."
The Salvation Army Central Territory was also on-hand to support the Chicago Kroc Center. Commissioner Paul R. Seiler, Territorial Commander, delivered a congratulatory message on behalf of the Central Territory. Commissioner Seiler was also joined by his wife, Commissioner Carol Seiler, retired Lt. Colonels David and Sherry Grindle, and Lt. Colonels Ralph and Susan Bukiewicz, the Chicago Metropolitan Divisional Commanders.
"For all of our neighbors from the nearby community today, this is your Kroc Center," said Lt. Colonel Bukiewicz as he addressed the community members gathered in the crowd to watch the ribbon cutting. "We invite you to explore the many programs and opportunities that are here for you at the Open House following the Ceremony. There is something here for everyone – no matter what your age – no matter what your interest. We welcome you to the Kroc Center, and may your Kroc adventure begin today."
Representing the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox was Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, a longtime supporter and partner to The Salvation Army. The Chicago White Sox Charities, the team’s philanthropic arm, generously donated $1 million to the Kroc Center. Kroc Center recreational facilities will include baseball and softball diamonds, where White Sox inner-city youth teams will play and train. Chicago Bulls Charities also donated $1 million. The main basketball court features the unmistakable Chicago Bulls logo center-court.
"It’s a joy to know that the White Sox Amateur baseball teams will be based here, and it’s great that they’ll be teamed up with the Kroc Center and working on college scholarships and learning job trades," said Jerry. "It’s a wonderful opportunity for ball players to get involved in more than just sports and to be a part of this great community. It is great for the neighborhood, it is great for the youth, and it’s great for the city of Chicago."
Many elected officials from across the City of Chicago and State of Illinois also attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. Alderman Carrie Austin, whose ward the Kroc Center resides in, has supported the Kroc Center every step of the way, hosting community forums, advocating for this project across the State and facilitating the support of the City of Chicago.
"The Salvation Army took on a community that was struggling and needed hope, and they gave us hope. They transformed lives," said Alderman Carrie Austin,. "I thank everyone who has prayed with us and helped us every step of the way. And to Joan Kroc and the Kroc family, thank you. To have given from their heart to people that were hopeless, she gave them hope. This is a Center for you, for me, and for all of the surrounding neighborhoods."
Governor Pat Quinn also also been a major supporter of the Kroc Center. Without the support of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, the site where the Kroc Center rests would still be a contaminated brown field rather than a gleaming beacon of hope and opportunity.
"We should never forget the Salvation Army," said Governor Pat Quinn. "When there is no vision, the people perish. And the Salvation Army had a vision. As we bring people together, there is a spirit of family, a spirit of community. There is violence in our neighborhoods. We need to end the silence and speak out. The young people coming up now have the opportunity to search for positive things, to come together to do and produce positive spirits. We can do it as a community."
An Open House followed the ceremony from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Open House was the first opportunity for the public to tour the building. Activities for young and old alike took place in every area of the Kroc Center.
Recreational activities such as spin, Zumba, step aerobics, cardio kickboxing and adult fitness demonstrations took place in the state-of-the-art Sports Training and Recreation Center. The Chicago Bulls Training Academy trained talented youth in ball handling and shooting. The Chicago White Sox Training Academy taught kids of all ages the fundamentals of baseball, from t-ball to fastpitch. Olympic Silver Medalist Maritza Correia instructed kids in the basics of swimming in the world class aquatic center. Visitors could also enjoy activities in dance, music and arts and crafts in the Academy of the Arts classrooms.
Saturday concluded with a free gospel concert. The 'Discover, Rejoice, Unite' concert featured gospel choirs from the Greater Canaan Missionary Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, praise dancers from New Life Ministries and The Salvation Army's 'Voices of Victory'. Mistress of Ceremonies Sonya Blakey, host of "The Joy Ride Home" on Inspiration 1390, brought the crowd to their feet as more than 500 voices came together as one in a joyful tribute to The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.
On Sunday, June 17, The Salvation Army Kroc Corps held a special Worship and Dedication Service, where the Kroc Center was dedicated by Commissioners Paul and Carol Seiler, and turned over to Majors David and Darlene Harvey. For the past five years, Majors David and Darlene Harvey, along with Corps Sgt. Majors Vincent and Sherry Johnson, have been the backbone of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, from inception to completion. They have worked diligently in the communities of the Far South Side, building partnerships with schools, community groups, churches and local leaders.
The 160,000-square-foot Kroc Center sits on a 33 acre campus and will offer a wide array of activities and services for people of all ages, making it a unique destination for the entire family. The Chicago Kroc Center has the potential to make a tremendous impact on the far South Side, with a particular focus on stemming violence, creating jobs and providing safe and enriching opportunities for all ages. More than 250,000 people live within a three-mile radius of the site. More than a third is under age 18. About 2,500 people are expected to use the Kroc Center daily.
Kroc Center Grand Opening Video Gallery