Home Features City, SYSA to Expand Youth Programs Through Public-Private Partnership

City, SYSA to Expand Youth Programs Through Public-Private Partnership

team handling the Southern Youth Sports Association expansion
Image from City of Pensacola Public Information

Donations Will Add New Community Center Near Legion Field and the Theophalis May Resource Center


The City of Pensacola and the Southern Youth Sports Association have partnered to expand programming for Escambia County youth through the new Rafferty Center, which will provide recreational and educational opportunities to hundreds of local youth.

The Rafferty Center will be constructed alongside Legion Field and the Theophalis May Resource Center, funded primarily through a $1 million donation from Troy and Ashley Rafferty, along with other private donations.

“Through generous private donations like this, the City of Pensacola will be able to expand our facility in ways we would not have been able to fund without the community support,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “I am very grateful for the support of Commissioner Lumon May, Councilman Delarian Wiggins, Troy and Ashley Rafferty, and all of our private donors who are making this project possible. Together, we will be able to enhance the programming and services for our youth, providing even more opportunities for our children to build strong minds and bodies.”

Additional private contributions to this project were made by Doug Baldwin, Jim and Shirley Cronley, the late Fred Levin, Mike Papantonio and other associates of Levin Papantonio Rafferty Law Firm. Thanks to a bill filed by Rep. Alex Andrade and supported by Rep. Michelle Salzman, Rep. Jayer Williamson, and Sen. Doug Broxson, the State of Florida has also committed at least $150,000 to the project.

The Southern Youth Sports Association, or SYSA, is a grassroots nonprofit organization that provides educational, recreational, athletic and cultural opportunities to children in the Escambia County community. SYSA offers basketball, cheerleading, baseball, football, tutoring, after-school and GED programs, currently serving approximately 800 youth ages 4-17.

“This will help us expand our capacity to help more children,” said Escambia County District 3 Commissioner Lumon May, who is also the co-founder and director of SYSA. “We need to enlarge our footprint, because we don’t have the capacity in terms of buildings to do the services that we want to do.”

Mayor Robinson, Commissioner May, and other local leaders joined together to announce the expansion on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which May said was fitting for a community project like this.

“Dr. King always talked about the dream and the hope for tomorrow and hope for the future,” Commissioner May said. “Most of the children we work with are disenfranchised, and this partnership was launched to give them hope and opportunity for the future.”

Commissioner May said SYSA will be working over the next 30-60 days to raise the remaining funds needed before moving the project forward.

To learn more about SYSA, visit sysatigers.org.

For more information about the Theophalis May Resource Center, visit the City of Pensacola website.