Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank donates $5M to East Baltimore youth center

February 4, 2016

An East Baltimore community center that reopened nearly a decade ago after catching the eye of Baltimore-bred basketball star Carmelo Anthony has attracted a new celebrity benefactor: Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank.

Plank’s Cupid Foundation is donating $5 million to the recreation center at 1100 E. Fayette St., money for renovations that will add more than 10,000 square feet to the facility, including a new turf field, dance and yoga space, a recording studio and a neighborhood kitchen.

Under Armour is also donating $1.275 million to support activities at the center over several years, the Baltimore-based athletic apparel brand said in a news release.

The gifts come as Plank and Under Armour embark on a multibillion-dollar project to build a new campus and other real estate projects in South Baltimore’s Port Covington. At the same time, calls for corporate involvement have intensified after April’s unrest, amid a competitive mayoral race.
They follow earlier Under Armour philanthropic efforts in the city, including the creation of new turf fields and donations to the city’s police and fire departments.

“We have been active in our community for many years, working with schools, families, hospitals and first responders,” Plank said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, we need to double down on that commitment. Baltimore is our home, and we will always show up and do our part.”

Renovations to the Fayette Street facility are expected to start this spring and finish this summer, and will be accompanied by a new approach to the facility’s offerings, such as a workforce development center on the ground floor, said James Piper Bond, CEO of the Living Classrooms Foundation, which started running the center after the Boys & Girls Club closed in 2005.

Bond said the gifts will help make the center the anchor of the nonprofit’s efforts in East Baltimore, where it operates a school and runs other programs in a square-mile area known as the target investment zone.

The center also will get a new name, but that hasn’t been decided yet, he said.

“It’s going to be a pretty amazing renovation to that facility, which will be a game-changer for that community moving forward,” he said.

The center reopened in 2006 as the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center, after the Knicks star gave $1.5 million to support its operations for five years, Bond said.

Plank, a longtime Living Classrooms board member, became involved after Anthony decided to go in a different direction, said Bond and Jill Fritzo, who works with Anthony. Fritzo declined to elaborate.

The center, which has an annual operating budget of about $850,000, now hosts an after-school program with about 200 participants, and serves more on a less-regular basis, Bond said. The donations will allow the group to add classes in computer coding, programs focused on entrepreneurship, music offerings and more, he said.

Living Classrooms is also working to develop a performance management system to measure its results, he said.

Plank’s Cupid Foundation donated $10.2 million last year to about 20 organizations, said Tom Geddes, managing partner at Plank Industries, which oversees the millionaire’s investments. Giving in 2016 is projected to be close to $20 million, including this project, he said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said in the news release that the collaboration between Under Armour and Living Classrooms sets an “example” for others in the city.

“The revitalization of this community center will allow Baltimore City residents of all ages to access the services and support they need to be successful, ultimately improving life in our city for everyone,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “By collaborating on this project, Under Armour and Living Classrooms Foundation are setting an example for others to follow as we work together to grow Baltimore.”

nsherman@baltsun.com
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