Jhe first phase of construction work to transform the former South Chrisitan High School into a $20 million facility Special Olympics Michigan Inc. Unified Sports and Inclusion Center is scheduled to end in May.
The 17-acre campus is being transformed into what will be the largest Special Olympics facility in the world. A $10 million fundraising campaign for the initial phase of the project launched in June 2021 to repurpose the former 127,000 square foot school.
The massive renovation project has already benefited the athletes and families served by the nonprofits and partners also housed in the building. The project also required a large amount of private and public funding, as well as collaborations, which earned it the non-profit contract of the year in MiBiz‘s 2022 M&A Deals & Dealmakers Awards.
Special Olympics Michigan Inc.
Senior leader: Tim Hileman, President and CEO
Total number of Michigan employees: 35 full-time employees and more than 23,000 volunteers
Company Description: Non-profit organization offering year-round sports training and competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities
The first phase of renovations focuses primarily on the old school, including making the building accessible to all and renovating space for various offices of non-profit organizations. The next phase will focus more on the exterior elements of the campus.
Honor Construction served as the owner’s representative throughout the construction process. Matison | Mathison Architects and Fishbeck are the design and engineering team for the project, and Erhardt Construction Co. is the general contractor.
“From an athlete and family perspective, the benefit of bringing all of these organizations together is that it improves the range of services,” said Special Olympics Michigan President and CEO Tim Hileman. MiBiz. “It has increased the efficiency of all our organizations to reduce infrastructure costs and reinvest them in programming, while bringing together many more ideas and connections.”
Organizations with office space at Special Olympics facilities or considering moving there this year include: Autism Support of Kent County, Brody’s Be Cafe, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Disability Advocates of Kent County, Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan, Far Out Volleyball Club, Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan/Be Nice, Moka and Thresholds.
“When we first reviewed and considered purchasing the building itself, we recognized that from a pure space perspective, there was more square footage than (Special Olympics Michigan) probably would use or need it,” Hileman said. “We immediately reached out to some service-minded organizations, which is helping us create a more sustainable model.”
Early in his tenure as president and CEO about three years ago, Hileman pitched the idea of buying South Christian High School to the nonprofit’s board of directors, Erik Daly said. , Member of the Board of Directors. Special Olympics Michigan acquired the property of South Christian High School for $3.5 million in June 2019.
“Bringing this to the board was a really bold thing to do,” Daly said. “Then we continued the project and a successful campaign was organized during the pandemic. The project moved in some ways towards a more collaborative effort that brought all of these organizations together to make it a more cost-effective model for everyone.
Sharing the space with various nonprofits helps all organizations and has helped Special Olympics Michigan create a deferred maintenance fund to make the building sustainable for the long term, Hileman said..
“Navigating a community mental health system can be difficult, and nonprofit resources can be difficult to access, so walking through the door and having answers together has been great for families, parents and our athletes,” said Hileman.
Prior to the pandemic, Special Olympics Michigan served approximately 20,000 athletes and unified partners statewide on an annual basis, Hileman said. The organization previously relied on partnerships with schools and other organizations for training and competition space.
“Throughout their lives, our athletes have played on someone else’s court, and now they’re playing on their own court,” Hileman said.
Competitions and training for Special Olympics athletes, as well as programs from partner organizations, continued during construction of the building.
“It was great because we have a controlled environment where we know we can put in place all the safety measures and protocols to help bring the athletes back,” Hileman said. “We’re seeing an increase in our athletes coming back week after week since the pandemic hit, and building was a big part of that.”