Plans are in the works to expand the St. James Sports Center, which has been open in Holmestown since 1996. Some projects already are under way.
According to Director Ernie Walthour, a new soccer field already is open and being used by First Presbyterian Christian Academy, Liberty County Recreation Department and Hinesville Gators soccer teams and teams from neighboring Bryan County.
"We’ve also received a lot of calls from other people wanting us to perhaps set up soccer tournaments for the summer," Walthour said.
Walthour said a new baseball field should be ready soon as well. He said St. James has a strong partnership with the athletic department at FPCA, which likely will use the facility as its home field. But Walthour said the field also is a community project to benefit kids within the Holmestown community.
In addition to hosting baseball and softball tournaments, Walthour said he would like to see the Holmestown community develop its own local teams.
But the biggest project is forthcoming.
Because the center is home to the Coastal Crew Rebels, Youth Challenge Academy and the Highlanders’ basketball and volleyball teams, the St. James gym is in desperate need of expansion, Walthour said.
"Basically we’ve run out of room with that one court that we have," he said. "So the board is discussing the renovation of the center and we hope to start soon. We are thinking about adding another court. We certainly need it, and that is our goal."
Walthour said the plan calls for adding a second basketball court and upgrading the existing one.
The center also uses the court for volleyball, and Walthour said the expansion will allow them to incorporate programs such as Taekwondo, gymnastics, wrestling and boxing.
The cost to expand the facility will be around $300,000, he said.
"We are looking to expand all our programs, and once we get the renovations completed we will have more space," Walthour said. "Once we get that in place, where I can have the flexibility and have basketball on one side and be able to have the other side for other activities… We have so many people wanting to use it, the schools, the church, the Rebels and outside people looking to host concerts."
Walthour became the director of the St. James Sports Center in 1996 and said he has been guided by St. James Church Pastor Marvin Kelly.
Walthour said it was Kelly’s vision to serve the children of Holmestown with free educational and sports programs.
The facility has a thriving after-school program, directed by education specialist Alfreda Golden.
Walthour said hundreds of kids are provided free after-school care, tutoring, snacks and dinner.
Walthour said when he first came to St. James, the center had a carpet floor and was just developing a sports program.
Since then, St. James has added a weight training room and one basketball court.
"Then we developed the Rebels AAU program, and we brought over the Youth Challenge Academy and partnered with FPCA," Walthour said. "We are seeing a large number of kids coming in for the 14U-17U Rebel teams. We have a lot of new kids and a lot of new interest in our sports program."