Emerald Youth Foundation Breaks Ground on Lonsdale Ministry Complex


Community leaders gather to kick off construction in Lonsdale

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Emerald Youth Foundation held a groundbreaking ceremony today to launch construction of 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, Chairman 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 strategys 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.

“This multipurpose complex for youth will be a difference-maker in Lonsdale and a catalyst for continued community development,” said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. “I am grateful to the Sansom and Haslam families for their significant and ongoing investment in our youth, and to the leadership and commitment of Steve Diggs and the Emerald Youth Foundation board and staff.”

“Lonsdale is a great community, and I am very proud that the county has been a partner in this great project. In addition to the donors and leadership of Emerald Youth, I’m also very grateful to the neighborhood itself. Without their advocacy, this project would simply not be happening,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

The Lonsdale Ministry Complex is being built in concert with the vision created 13 years ago through the Lonsdale Neighborhood Plan as adopted by the Metropolitan Planning Commission and City Council. Additionally, significant community input has been sought during the last 18 months of planning, including engagement with well over 400 stakeholders.

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.

“I’m honored to have been asked to lead Emerald’s efforts in Lonsdale, which has been a recurring theme and location throughout my professional career,” said DuBose, Director of Area Ministries for Lonsdale. “We have assembled a great team of individuals who are working every day to ensure that every child in every neighborhood has a full life, and we aren’t waiting until construction is complete to get started.”

Since the start of summer, Emerald Youth has already engaged with more than 50 neighborhood children and families, offering programs for young people in the community.

“This project is something that we have been asking and praying about for many years,” said New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Joseph Smith. “On behalf of the entire neighborhood, I want to express our thanks to all who have made this project possible, perhaps most of all the Sansom and Haslam families. The community will steward this incredible resource well, and we will work together to ensure it is here for years and years to come.”

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, visit www.emeraldyouth.org/lonsdale or follow @EmeraldYouth on Twitter and Facebook.

About Emerald Youth Foundation
Since 1991, Emerald Youth Foundation worked to support Knoxville’s youth and prepare generations of Godly community leaders. Emerald Youth has engaged more than 25,000 children and young adults in a variety of community programs over nearly three decades. Every year, Emerald Youth serves more than 2,200 children, teens and young adults in the heart of Knoxville through faith, learning and health programs.

John Crooks