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Black owned youth center comes to Rock Island in old Hickman building

Owners say kids will come play basketball, but also learn about nutrition and personal finance.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — A new youth center will open in the Quad Cities this year.  The focus keeps kids on the basketball court, but also teaches them life skills like personal finance and nutrition.  

Lonnie and Constance Westerfield bought the Hickman Community Center back in March.  It was storage for the Rock Island Housing Authority. So far they've put $200,000 into the building where everything had to be redone - new roof, floor, and electric.

"Right now this is going to be the only Black owned youth center in the Quad Cities area," says Lonnie.

His vision is to build a basketball court inside, but offer more than that.

"Our goal is to use basketball to get their attention," Lonnie explains. "And once we get their attention we slide the information into them."

Lonnie started Lonnie Rays Elite Basketball Academy five years ago.  The program has attracted 200 boys and girls across the Quad Cities, but they never had a place to call their own.  

The new Hickman Youth Center will offer kids nutrition classes, finance classes, and a garden in the back to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for the center's kitchen.

Tarah Sipes, Rock Island's Economic Development Manager, says the Hickman Center was used for events and weddings years ago.

"In the past the Hickman Center brought a lot of positive associations to individuals," Sipes says. "I think every opportunity to get young people involved is a good thing, because not every space can be a catch all for every young person."

Lonnie says eventually he wants to add-on to the center and make two full basketball courts.  The current building would then be reserved for classes.

There's no word when the Hickman Youth Center will open.  Lonnie says they want to wait out the pandemic.