The Build Is On!
Construction Update, November 2023
Construction began in the winter of 2022 and the core and shell are complete. The building should be completed and ready for occupancy by fall 2024. The SquashBusters Center will serve as a world class home for the SquashBusters Lawrence program and includes offices and meeting spaces for staff, three classrooms, eight squash courts, two locker rooms, a gym space, and a number of informal meeting areas. Owning and operating this space, in the city where SQB students live, will be transformational for the program
SQB’s planning for programmatic growth are well underway and include increased enrollment, increased dosage, additional school partners, additional summer programming and more and deeper community partnerships. The facility brings SQB much closer to a variety of existing and potential new partners in Lawrence and will increase opportunities for collaboration with these groups, especially those located on nearby Island Street and Everett Mills.
Andrés Burbank-Crump, the Head of Innovation and Partnerships, has been reaching out to mission-aligned organizations to ensure that when the building is not being used by SquashBusters, it can be employed to the benefit of the residents of Lawrence, both through programs run by SquashBusters and in partnership with organizations serving the community. As we consider different ways to utilize the Center, we are mindful of the most pressing needs in Lawrence, as expressed by residents of the city and compiled community needs assessments. Top among these are adult education, immigration services and job opportunities. We are eager to to help meet these needs and more and we anticipate having a positive impact on the community.
After more than 8 years of searching for a permanent home in Lawrence, in 2020 SquashBusters reached an agreement with Lawrence Community Works (LCW) to build our own squash and education center. The New Balance Foundation SquashBusters Center is part of the LCW’s Island Parkside mixed-use community project, home to 80 units of low-income housing targeting families, a number of community and green spaces such as a revitalization of Ferrous Park, and a half-mile walking trail along the Merrimack River.
SquashBusters came to Lawrence in 2012 and has been operating on borrowed and rented spaces throughout the Merrimack Valley ever since. The SquashBusters Center will serve as a world class home for the SquashBusters Lawrence program. The building will include offices and meeting spaces for staff, three classrooms, eight squash courts, two locker rooms, a gym space, and a number of informal meeting areas. Owning and operating this space, in the city where SQB students live, will be transformational for the program, which has been historically limited by the logistical and transportation and the uncertainty of running the our programs on borrowed spaces outside the city of Lawrence. Key programmatic improvements include:
- Enrollment: SQB will have the capacity to increase enrollment of middle and high school students from 80 to 120, and post-secondary students from 46 to 75.
- Dosage: Current limited access to courts and fitness space means students typically practice twice a week, with each practice lasting between 2-2.5 hours. With the opening of the SquashBusters Center, students will have programming at least 3 times per week and have the opportunity to drop in practically as often as they want, 5-6 days every week. The Center will be open to students for a minimum of 4 hours each day.
- School Partners: SQB’s location in the city brings the program significantly closer to additional schools and in many cases relieves SQB of the need to drive students to programming every day. We anticipate the number of primary partner schools available to work with will increase from 5 to 10, allowing SQB to serve a wider scope of young people in the city.
- Community Partnerships: The facility brings SQB much closer to a variety of existing and potential new partners in Lawrence and will increase opportunities for collaboration with these groups, especially those located on nearby Island Street and Everett Mills.
- Summer Programming: Consistent access to courts and classrooms will allow SquashBusters to offer more robust summer programming. The new Center will allow SQB to offer four weeks of summer programming, twice as much as is currently offered. In addition, we will be able to partner with world class squash programs and other organizations in the city to bring resources into our facility and enrich the experience of the students.
The SquashBusters Center will be transformational for the Lawrence program. It will allow SQB to offer higher quality programming to more students than have ever been served before. In addition to the elevated quality and quantity of squash opportunities, academic enrichment, and post-secondary support, SQB will partner more meaningfully with other organizations in the city to ensure our students are exposed to the widest variety of experiences possible during their time in the program.
The SquashBusters Center will also allow SQB to engage with the local community in new and innovative ways. There will be significant windows of time when the building is not used by the SquashBusters program and can be employed to the benefit of the residents of Lawrence, both through programs run by SquashBusters and in partnership with organizations serving the community. We are eager to maximize the utilization of the SquashBusters Center when it is not being used for our youth development programs to help meet these needs and we anticipate having a positive impact on the community through:
- Adult Education: Many adult education classes occur in spaces identical to those in our new facility and are scheduled primarily during the hours when our space will available. Classes offered by these organizations include English Language Learning, Citizenship Exam Preparation and more.
- Job Training: Similarly, a number of organizations offer job training to give residents of Lawrence the resources and experience needed to find gainful employment. Such training will also occur in our classrooms outside of SQB programming, and include Nursing Assistant, Early Childhood Care, and Paraprofessional Training.
- Community Workspace: During the pandemic we saw how difficult it was for our students and families to find quiet spaces with strong internet access to work or attend school remotely. We anticipate offering one classroom in the new facility to be utilized as a co-working space for our alumni, families and tenants of Island Parkside. There is also the potential for partnership with alternative education programs to provide quiet, functional study spaces for remote students.
- Community Squash: SquashBusters plans to leverage our squash courts, gym space, and locker rooms to launch a community squash program. Intended to serve squash players in the Merrimack Valley, we will create a multicultural and multigenerational community in our facility, with a particular focus on familiarizing Lawrence residents with the sport and facilitating access to membership regardless of socioeconomic standing. We will also create space for regular open houses where we invite different groups from throughout the city into our facility to try the sport and learn more about the Center.
- School Enrichment: The Center can also be used for school-day enrichment or gym classes for public schools which do not have access to their own recreational spaces, thereby increasing the number of young people benefitting from our facility and accessing meaningful health and wellness programming.
- Community Events: The facility has the potential to be a great venue for events for SquashBusters and other organizations from throughout Lawrence. Our own special events will be drastically more accessible to the community and in some cases, as with our annual MashUp, expose folks to world class squash. We will also be able to regularly host our own potlucks, family dinners, and other celebrations. Our hope is that the building will also serve as a site for partner organizations to host their own celebrations and events.
- Tenant Access: It is our intent that SquashBusters is a protagonist within the Island Parkside community, proactively ensuring that residents of the affordable housing on the site are utilizing the resources available in the building. These include access to the gym, community squash memberships, usage of potential co-working space, and access to SquashBusters programming for middle and high school aged students.
- Employment: SquashBusters will employ members of the Lawrence community in the SquashBusters Center. We will utilize our network within the city to ensure we are providing gainful employment to residents of the city at a living wage and that the folks working at the Center are dedicated to the community we are serving.
Taken together, all these initiatives will allow SquashBusters to dramatically increase the depth and breadth of our impact in the city of Lawrence, well beyond youth development. Through strategic partnerships and usage of the spaces in the facility, residents of the city will have the ability to be part of a meaningful community and access valuable resources on mornings, nights, and weekends at the New Balance Foundation SquashBusters Center. We believe the SquashBusters Center will be a game-changer for the city of Lawrence, providing programming and opportunities to support citizens at every stage of life.