LeBron James surprised I Promise School students Thursday by announcing a $1 million grant from the Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation to build a new gym at the Akron school.
The Los Angeles Laker and Akron native made the announcement at his alma mater St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. The gym will be used for physical education programs and after-school activities, and serve as a safe space for children.
“To my kids, this is more than a gym,” James said. “The Dick’s Sports Matter program is helping us provide even more opportunities. An opportunity to play and learn in a safe place that many don’t have access to. I can’t imagine where my friends and I would be if it weren’t for the coaches and teachers who cared about us and the opportunities we had.”
Specific details, such as the cost and when it will be built, were not included in a news release issued Friday.
"We are in the early stages of the plan," Akron Public Schools spokesman Mark Williamson said. "Once drawings are complete, we will know cost better. But the expectation is that the donation and the partnership will pay for the whole project."
The Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation was established in 2011. Its Sports Matter Community Grant Program was launched last year and benefits high-poverty, local youth sports teams, leagues and schools.
The I Promise School, a partnership between the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools, opened last year to third- and fourth-graders at 400 W. Market St. and is designed to help at-risk children with a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). There are 240 students attending the school.
“I believe the sky is the limit for these kids, and the results we’re seeing are just the beginning,” James said. “Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation believes in the opportunities and values sports provide, and I’ve experienced that at every level. I saw it growing up with my teammates, and I see it with my kids now. The benefits of playing sports can extend to every aspect of your life, and I’m excited we’re able to provide a space for that growth at the I Promise School.”
In December, the LeBron James Family Foundation and the 2K Foundation revealed renovations to the Balch Street Community Center gymnasium, less than a mile from the school on West Market Street. Students are able to use the site for basketball, recreational activities, school assemblies, after-school activities and other events.
On Monday, the Akron school board will also formally accept a $330,000 donation from James' foundation to expand the family resource center at the I Promise School to grow the space and include a laundry room. The principal's office and a teachers' lounge also will be renovated.