The Ravens have made a major commitment to provide a safe space for the city's youth to thrive.
Alongside The Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation, the Ravens have committed $20 million to transform the Hilton Recreation Center in West Baltimore into the Baltimore Ravens Boys & Girls Club at Hilton Recreation Center. The announcement was made at a Thursday press conference attended by Ravens President Sashi Brown, President Emeritus Dick Cass, Mayor Brandon Scott and other civic leaders.
Partnering with the Ravens on this project are the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore (BGCMB), Baltimore City Rec and Parks, former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith and his LEVEL82 organization, Green Street Academy, Whiting-Turner, Design Collective and neighborhood/community leaders.
The existing recreation center will be expanded into a multi-purpose complex that will include a multi-purpose athletic field with sports lighting, a teen center, activity and games spaces, tutoring spaces, and indoor/outdoor community gathering spaces.
BGCMB will provide youth programs that focus on academic success, character and leadership development, the arts, health and wellness, sports and recreation and workforce readiness. BGCMB will also coordinate additional nonprofit program partners to provide services in the renovated club. Construction is set to begin later this year.
Construction is expected to begin in late 2023, to be completed by the end of 2024.
"Making a significant impact on our community has been a top priority of the Ravens since the team's inception," Brown said. "We appreciate Steve and Renee Bisciotti for their overwhelming generosity and thank Dick Cass for his guidance and leadership that helped us set the standard over many years. Football is a true team sport, and similarly it takes a team to make something of this magnitude become a reality. Torrey Smith and LEVEL82, Baltimore City Recreation and Parks, Green Street Academy, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore make a formidable team that remains focused on delivering this magnificent project to our community."
This project began with a challenge from Bisciotti in 2020 to identify a recreation center to target for a substantial investment. The Hilton Rec Center became an appealing site because it was located directly behind Green Street Academy – a public charter school that was founded in 2010. The plan is to have the new Boys & Girls Club facilities serve as the home for Green Street Academy's sports teams.
Meanwhile, Smith's connection to the Hilton Recreation Center is personal. After he retired from the NFL in 2018, Smith and his wife, Chanel, decided to make the Baltimore area their permanent home and were determined to make an impact in the community. Smith wanted to provide both educational and recreational resources for Baltimore's youth, particularly in neighborhoods where it was difficult to find funding for such programs.
Former Ravens Vice President of Security Darren Sanders and current Vice President of Security Craig Singleterry drove Smith around Baltimore to increase his knowledge of the city as he looked for a place where he could hold after-school programs. Sanders, who passed away in 2021, and Singleterry both served as Baltimore police officers before joining the Ravens – two Baltimore natives who shared Smith's passion for helping the community.
The Hilton Recreation Center had been closed for 12 years at one point, but Smith saw its potential for growth and launched a leadership academy at the location, while the Ravens made an initial $400,000 donation to help jumpstart his program.
"Mr. Bisciotti had a conversation with Darren and Craig one day about wanting to do more in the community," Smith said. "They mentioned me and told him to call me. Next thing I know, we're on the phone talking. The Ravens have always been supportive, but it meant the world to me that they would support something I was trying to do to help the community. What we've been able to accomplish so far wouldn't be possible without their support."
Singleterry, who has directed many Police Athletic League programs, believes entities like the Baltimore Ravens Boys & Girls Club are vital to give youngsters a place to learn, participate in sports and socialize.
"This partnership with the Ravens and Hilton Rec Center is a big thing," Singleterry said. "The community is going to love this. It's going to help the kids in that community see brighter days, go places they've never gone before, meet people they'd never meet otherwise."
The renovated center will have a purple-and-black motif, and the Ravens hope their affiliation with the project will inspire other Baltimore businesses and organizations to create partnerships designed to inspire Baltimore's youth.
"You think about Baltimore City, you think about the Ravens," Smith said. "I've been talking to Mr. Bisciotti for quite a few years now. His commitment has always been there. This is just another level to it. He wants to provide more and understands some of the challenges that exist. The more resources you provide Baltimore City, the better it will be.
"Certain areas lack resources to create a safe space that kids want to go to. This could be a game-changer. This isn't a donate-and-leave situation. We're all staying committed. The Ravens have always been dedicated to the community, but this is another level, raising the bar for how NFL teams can make an impact."