Change Center will be a New Safe Place for Teens to Gather

Communications Director

Eric Vreeland
evreeland@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

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News item

Change Center will be a New Safe Place for Teens to Gather

Posted: 04/21/2016
Change CenterImagine a safe place that attracts teens and young adults from across the City of Knoxville –  open in the evenings and on weekends, when these young people are looking most for fun things to do.

Today, Mayor Madeline Rogero joined local community and religious leaders to announce The Change Center, a new facility on Harriet Tubman St. that will serve that need in Knoxville. Located in space donated by Overcoming Believers Church, The Change Center will include a roller skating rink, a multi-purpose sports venue, a concert stage, a movie wall, a music mixing studio, a climbing wall, a game room and a Hard Knox Pizza café. In addition, there will be a major Change Center Jobs Initiative. 

“We have heard over and over from teens and young adults in our most vulnerable neighborhoods that they need safe places to go, to hang out with friends and have supportive mentors,” Mayor Rogero said. “The Change Center will help fill that gap and provide a haven for recreation and job-skills training, in a friendly setting.”

Change Center Design

Click here to view more photos from the Change Center announcement
The inspiration for The Change Center came from local young people, parents and other community members. At a Sons Summit last summer, organized as part of the City’s Save Our Sons initiative to reduce violence-related deaths among young men and boys of color, the need most often cited by the participants was for safe places to socialize outside of school hours. This was reinforced by input from parents and mentors, who said young people need options to keep them away from risky activities.

Pastor Daryl Arnold, the founder of Overcoming Believers Church and a member of the Save Our Sons advisory committee, offered to donate 20,000 square feet of vacant warehouse space. Arnold will co-chair The Change Center’s Board of Directors, along with Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch, but he emphasized that it is a separate community facility, not a ministry of the church.

“The Change Center will serve our entire community,” Pastor Arnold said.  “OBC is blessed to be able to contribute in providing options and opportunities for young people who are crying out for them.”

The Change Center, projected to open in late 2017, will have free admission and moderate activity fees for attractions, games, and concessions. In addition, The Change Center Jobs Initiative will include job training, direct entry-level jobs for young people within the Center, connections to jobs in the greater community, and entrepreneurial job creation.

Nicole Chandler, Executive Director of The Change Center, said an initial fundraising goal of $2.9 million to build out the facility is already off to a great start, with a $500,000 commitment over two years from the City of Knoxville, and another $500,000 in private donations.



“Today we are kicking off a capital campaign to meet the rest of our goal, and we will be reaching out to all sectors of our community,” Chandler said. “And not just major donors – families and kids can get involved by donating in the ‘Change 4 Change’ Campaign. Every penny counts!”
The first private sector commitments are from The Haslam Family Foundation, Pilot Corporation, and Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville. The Haslam Family Foundation has also made an additional $250,000 commitment to operations expenses over five years, to ensure that the Change Center will have long-term sustainability through various fee-based attractions, preventing any competition with existing youth-serving organizations for annual funding in the community.

“We initiated the feasibility study for The Change center in August of 2015 and the response has been very positive from everyone with whom we have had discussions,” Chandler said. “All of the recent discussion about violence in our community has really catapulted the understanding for the need of a space like The Change Center.” 

In December 2015, 15-year-old Fulton High School student Zaevion Dobson was killed in a shooting in the Lonsdale neighborhood, when he dove to protect two friends from gunfire. His heroic sacrifice brought attention from President Barack Obama and national media, and led to a citywide conversation about young people in Knoxville’s urban neighborhoods. This week, his 12-year-old cousin Jajuan Latham died of a gunshot wound from a stray bullet while sitting the back seat of his father’s car in Mechanicsville.
Chief Rausch said, “Zaevion showed by example what our young people are capable of. Jajuan’s death reminds us how vulnerable they are. The Change Center gives us an opportunity as a community to rise to the occasion and provide the support, resources and leadership that our young people need.”

For more information or to contribute to The Change Center, see www.changecenterknoxville.com and www.gofundme.com/changecenter. Nicole Chandler can be reached at 865-951-1567 or nicole@changecenterknoxville.com