At long last, Delaware youth basketball program will get a new home for the kids
Lonnie Wright described the process of going from a dream of a youth sports complex to its reality as "a long 3½ years," drawing out the word "long" for emphasis.
That reality began Tuesday when Wright, the founder and executive director of the Nothing But Net Sports Academy, announced a site just off Route 896 in Glasgow, at 900 Technology Drive.
NBNSA is a boys and girls youth basketball and education program in Delaware that Wright founded in 2017.
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The site will house a youth sports complex that will feature six basketball courts, an 80-yard indoor turf field to be used for various sports including flag football, baseball/softball, lacrosse and so on. The facility will also include volleyball courts, an area for wrestling, a training center and "anything you can host indoors," he said.
Wright said he expects construction to begin sometime next month, with an opening planned for the spring of 2022. He said the cost of the project, raised through donations and grants, is about $10 million.
"Honestly, there were times I was wondering if this would ever happen," Wright said. "But we persevered, and it's a great feeling to be able to have a place like this. It's a great thing for youth sports and the state of Delaware."
The facility will also have an academic center, a major part of Wright's mission to provide more than just athletics to youth throughout the state.
"That is of utmost importance," Wright said. "The whole program revolves around sports, obviously, but we want to show kids there are other ways to succeed in sports without becoming a professional athlete."
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Wright mentioned that kids can learn about sports media, sports medicine, athletic training and balancing sports with academics at his facility.
"There are many places that train young athletes physically, but no one trains them mentally," Wright said. "That's what we're trying to do."
Wright currently runs the NBNSA youth basketball league for kids between 7 and 18. This season, the league is playing its games at Casimir Pulaski Elementary School in Wilmington. But in the past, it has had other homes throughout the Wilmington area.
Since Wright started NBNSA, participation has increased from about 60 kids in 2017 to nearly 300 this spring.
During that time, his league has had to find courts wherever it could, making Wright all the more determined to find a permanent home while also serving youth in other sports.
Before devoting all of his time to this endeavor, Wright was a longtime assistant basketball coach at Delaware Military Academy.
There are still a few hurdles.
As of now, Wright said he has approval for two floors of 56,000 square feet each. He said he would need a zoning variance to make it 100,000 square feet for one floor. Wright said he's hoping to have that in the next few weeks.
When completed, the facility will join two other recent multipurpose sports facilities in Delaware that serve youth sports.
There's the Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington, which opened in 2019, primarily as the home of the Delaware Blue Coats, a G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers.
There's also DE Turf in southern Kent County, which opened in 2017. It has a dozen outdoor artificial turf playing fields frequently utilized for lacrosse, field hockey, soccer and football competitions, practices and camps.
In addition, a group called Indoor Track Delaware, is hoping to raise money to build a facility in Delaware that would house indoor track and field events while also benefiting other sports.
As of now, there isn't a suitable indoor track facility in Delaware for the winter indoor track season. The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association has conducted its indoor track and field championships in Landover, Maryland, since 2014.
This year, COVID-19 protocols prevented out-of-state travel during the winter sports season. So the DIAA state championships for track and field were held outdoors at Dover High School on March 3.
Wright can relate with the frustrations of finding a home, and the elation he feels now that he's about to get one.
"My whole thing is trying to create the complete athlete," Wright said. "Not only for what they do in their sport, but academically as well. On my AAU teams, report cards are mandatory ... and so are good study habits. Those are all important things that are getting lost."
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.