Emerald Youth breaks ground for Lonsdale Ministry Complex

John CrooksFeature, Inside 640

Emerald Youth Foundation has broken ground for the Lonsdale Ministry Complex.


Announced in April 2017, the project is a world-class, neighborhood complex for young people and residents of Lonsdale. It includes two multipurpose, synthetic turf fields for soccer, flag football and other sports. Additionally, the complex includes a more than 30,000 square foot multipurpose facility featuring a learning center; two full-size gymnasiums with basketball courts, locker rooms, concessions and kitchen; fitness area with weight room, dance/aerobics room and cardio theater; assembly room for gatherings; and a worship and performing arts area with practice rooms.

The families funding the project, Elisabeth and Bill Sansom and Dee and Jimmy Haslam, were on hand for the ceremony and were excited to begin construction.

“Elisabeth and I, along with the rest of our family, are thrilled to be a part of the great work Emerald is doing in our city in pointing young men and women to Jesus Christ,” said Bill Sansom, chair and CEO the H.T. Hackney Company. “When we started the partnership we have at the Sansom Sports Complex on Dale Avenue several years ago, there were 1,000 young people on the fields in the first week. We knew then that the need was tremendous, but never imagined a facility like this one.”

Dee Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns and member of the board of trustees at Emerald Youth Foundation for nearly two decades, added, “Our family believes deeply in the work Emerald is doing for children and families across the city. Jimmy and I have the opportunity to observe many, many great organizations around the region and around the country, and I am convinced that Emerald is truly changing the trajectory for kids in urban Knoxville. We are proud to be a part of this project, which we believe will be truly transformational for not only the Lonsdale community, but for those who use this incredible facility.”

The Lonsdale Ministry Complex will be situated on land along Texas Avenue between Stonewall and Sherman Streets, as well as a portion of property next to Sam E. Hill Preschool adjacent to Lonsdale Homes. A section of Minnesota Avenue will be modified for pedestrian and parking use.

“What a tremendous opportunity this presents to serve even more children and their families in the heart of Knoxville, specifically in Lonsdale,” said Emerald Youth Foundation president and CEO Steve Diggs. “On behalf of our board, staff and everyone connected with Emerald, I am grateful to the Sansom and Haslam families for their generosity to make this possible. This project is not just a facility, but part of a larger strategy as we work to engage young people in three key areas of faith, learning and health. It would also not be possible without the cooperation we have received from local government partners.”

The complex will be will be owned by the two families and leased to Emerald Youth Foundation for $1 a year. Johnson and Galyon Construction will develop the project which is anticipated to open in mid-2019.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett were present. Rogero called the project “a difference-maker in Lonsdale,” and Burchett said neighborhood advocacy was crucial in obtaining the facility. During the last 18 months of planning, over 400 stakeholders were engaged.

Emerald’s operations in Lonsdale will be led by Kevin DuBose, a veteran community development leader who previously served in local government in the administrations of multiple mayors.

In May, Emerald Youth launched Imagine a City, a new initiative focused on raising the next generation of promising, Godly young adult leaders for Knoxville. The Lonsdale Ministry Complex is a strategic step toward this goal, and to fulfil Emerald’s driving vision – that Knoxville will become a city where every child, in every neighborhood, has the opportunity for a full life.

For more information on the Lonsdale Ministry Complex, visitwww.emeraldyouth.org/lonsdale or follow @EmeraldYouth on Twitter andFacebook.

John Crooks is director of communications for Emerald Youth Foundation. Reach him at 865-637-3227, ext, 119.

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