PALMETTO — The Palmetto Boys & Girls Club was a cramped two-room building when it opened in 1957.
“There was a pool table in it, a little bitty office area and not much else,” said attorney Caleb Grimes. “I was 7.”
Fifty-two years later, the ideals nurtured in that little dwelling — “The Positive Place for Kids” — will continue to be developed in a state-of-the-art, 26,000-square-foot facility expected to be opened next summer.
“Like going from our rural pioneer days to the space age,” said Grimes, lead speaker at Wednesday’s official groundbreaking ceremonies for the project already under construction.
Club officials and board members, representatives of city and county government, joined school board members and construction officials in the celebration.
The new club, situated next to the present building completed in 1971 on 10th Street West, will have a partnership of shared facilities — i.e., gym, parking, cafeteria — that includes the nearby Palmetto Elementary School also under construction.
And the Just For Girls School is next door.
“This is a great day, a great opportunity for our children,“ said Carl Weeks, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County. “We’re looking to have that facility utilized from 6 a.m. to late at night.”
The plan is to double its daily attendance of 150.
“Being next to a school is a huge benefit, because kids won’t have to be bused,” said attorney and longtime board member Tim Knowles.
There will be a teen center, art center and tech center with 40 computers for digital arts and Web page development, as well as an air-conditioned gym with 10,000 square feet.
“New programs, new surroundings, new people — I’m excited,” said member Alexis Griffin, 11.
The project’s price tag is about $3 million, Weeks said. The funds come from the estate of Alma Myers, who died in the 1980s.
Her trust stipulated that the Palmetto Boys & Girls Club was the recipient of all funds.
The largest amount came from the 2005 sale of the Palmetto Pines Golf Course, which she and her husband founded in the 1950s.
Attorney William C. Grimes, Caleb’s father, and accountant Harry C. Pratt were stewards of that trust fund.
Their vision took the club a long way from that two-room building.
“I had a setting with a lot of other kids who were having fun together and learning a lot of things and that was important, Caleb Grimes said.
“I will say, though, having a facility like this in this day and age will attract more kids and that’s what’s needed.”
Vin Mannix, columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.