Centre for Youth Excellence rises up

WINNIPEG, MB–At the corner of Main Street and Higgins Avenue a sheer slice of concrete rises 55 feet into the air. Around its base a skeleton of metal girders and concrete footings are rapidly sprouting as bulldozers, cranes and hard-hatted workers lay the foundation of The Centre for Youth Excellence, Youth For Christ's (YFC) multi-million dollar youth recreational centre.

The towering concrete wall is on its way to becoming a “world-class climbing wall" according to YFC executive director John Courtney. Designed by a Minneapolis-based company called Nicros, the finished wall will look like “a huge piece of granite that dropped out of heaven," Courtney says. “It doesn't get better."

And a cheque for $130,000 to pay for the climbing wall also seems to have fallen from heaven. Local businessman and former owner of Krevco, Jon Kreviazuk recently gave YFC one of the largest donations he's ever made.

Kreviazuk's gift brings the total amount raised for the youth centre to $9.5 million–nearly three-fourths of the centre's $13.2 million price tag. The City of Winnipeg contributed $3.2 million and YFC received another $3.2 million in federal infrastructure funding.

To qualify for the federal funds the construction has to be completed by March 31, 2011. With four months to go before the completion deadline, YFC is launching a capital campaign to drum up the remaining $3.7 million.

“We are thrilled with where we are today," says Courtney. “We've come long way, but we still need hundreds of individuals and businesses to step up."

Courtney sounds buoyant, despite carrying what he describes as one of the toughest burdens of leadership he's ever shouldered. He's already faced a few storms.

The youth centre became a controversial topic at City Hall last February when a number of community-based organizations spoke out against public funds going to a large evangelical organization like YFC.

More recently, workers driving concrete piles for the centre's foundation ran into two mysterious layers of concrete rubble–probably left over from the demolition of previous buildings. “We had to drill and pound, drill and pound," says Courtney. Construction fell about four weeks behind schedule.

Since then Courtney estimates workers have made up a week of lost time. He also says he's met with a few of the organizations who initially opposed the centre.

“I feel really good about the conversations, the connections, the relationships we've built, and you know that's going to be ongoing," Courtney says.

“I walk with a level of confidence that while it's a lot of work and a big challenge, we're going to end up on our feet and this centre's going to get paid for."

Read other ChristianWeek stories on this issue:
City approves Youth for Christ centre desite opposition
And now the work begins for YFC

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