A crowd of 100-plus people responded with a roar of applause when Mayor Madeline Rogero announced Monday morning that, after meeting the initial fundraising goal, construction is ready to begin on The Change Center.


The warehouse at 203 Harriet Tubman Street, provided by the adjacent Overcoming Believers Church, will house a skating rink, climbing wall, Hard Knox Pizza café, recording studio, and more. The Center will be open after school and on weekends as a fun and safe space for young people to hang out as well as find job and mentoring opportunities.


“Look around,” the Mayor said, indicating the dirt floor, corrugated metal walls and metal support poles. “We are literally raising the roof. You won’t recognize it a year from now.”


In April 2016, Mayor Rogero announced the creation of the Change Center and its initial financial commitments and goals. Since then, 3,300 people have donated more than $3 million. Additional donations have been allocated for operating funds, and $527,000 is still being sought to purchase furniture, fixtures and equipment.


Overcoming Believers Pastor Daryl Arnold and Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, co-chairs of the Change Center board of directors, recognized and thanked their fellow board members present in the audience.


Change Center Executive Director Nicole Chandler expressed appreciation for the many people who have met with her, including business owners, parents, and the young people who told her exactly what they wanted from this project.


“The young people are the MVPs here,” she said. “We’ve heard from you. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for trusting adults to make this happen.” Chandler said that thoughts of making these young people’s dreams a reality motivates her to get up every morning.


“Now, I’m ready for some demo,” she said.


A dozen members of the Center’s Youth 4 Change Advisory Council, wearing yellow, toy construction helmets, used plastic bats to topple a “brick” wall and reveal a Change Center banner.


For additional information about The Change Center, including how to donate and sign up for its email newsletter, visit ChangeCenterKnoxville.com.

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