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Philadelphia Youth Basketball hopes the Alan Horwitz ‘Sixth Man’ Center brings ‘life-changing opportunities’

The ‘Sixth Man’ Center, which opened officially Tuesday, features seven basketball courts. The facility also offers an education suite, mental health oasis, and multimedia labs.

Alan Horwitz cuts the ribbon inside the newly built Alan Horwitz ‘Sixth Man’ Center on Tuesday. The building is part of Philadelphia Youth Basketball, an organization centered around the growth and development of underserved children.
Alan Horwitz cuts the ribbon inside the newly built Alan Horwitz ‘Sixth Man’ Center on Tuesday. The building is part of Philadelphia Youth Basketball, an organization centered around the growth and development of underserved children.Read moreCourtesy of Philadelphia Youth Basketball

The Alan Horwitz “Sixth Man” Center on Wissahickon Avenue in Nicetown officially opened its doors Tuesday to the North Philadelphia community and beyond.

It’s been a long time coming — the newly renovated, $36 million, 100,000-square-foot facility has been in the works for nearly a decade by the Philly Youth Basketball organization, which was founded in 2015. Now, PYB cofounder and CEO Kenny Holdsman has seen the vision become a reality.

“To be standing in here with a lot of people, including 150 summer campers, we are doing everything that we set out to do,” said Holdsman. “It’s gratifying in ways that I would never have imagined it would be. We are in the heart of Nicetown in North Philly — it’s a citywide project, but this could be a difference-maker in a neighborhood that might lead to additional development and positive activity.”

PYB is a youth-empowerment organization that uses basketball to help underserved communities. It serves about 1,200 youths per year, and with the new “Sixth Man” Center, Holdsman said, that number could expand to having more than 5,000 children and teenagers involved in the program.

Holdsman worked with PYB cofounder Eric Worley, also the creator of the Philly Triple Threat AAU program, and Ameen Akbar, the chief mission officer, to forge relationships with donors and eventually secure a facility.

But it wasn’t until Horwitz, a Sixers superfan who is the founder and chairman of Campus Apartments, gave a $5 million gift to the organization that more supporters joined in on the cause.

“The first part is putting an idea and proposition out there that people can really get behind,” Holdsman said. “Then it’s convincing folks that we have the wherewithal and capability to actually succeed in the big idea.

“One of the things that took us a little bit, wasn’t just finding the right property, but getting a set of philanthropists, and in particular Alan, to say, ‘You know what, I’m going to make a big bet on this organization, on this center, and this leadership team.’ Within 13 months we raised another $15 million.”

Horwitz had the honor Tuesday of cutting the ribbon inside the building’s main gymnasium, which features seven basketball courts. The facility also has other components beyond basketball such as an education suite, mental health oasis, and multimedia labs.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia Youth Basketball to offer newly built Alan Horwitz ‘Sixth Man’ Center

Mayor Cherelle L. Parker, Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, and state Sen. Vincent Hughes, along with other political members were in attendance for the celebration ceremony. Parker and Hughes shared their remarks on stage. Both said the center will impact the youth now and in generations to come.

“This is something for the entire community at large,” Parker said to the crowd. “Thank you for making sure that the people using this facility know that despite race, class, their zip code, or their religion, they too deserve access and equality, and that we shouldn’t have to sneak across the street to the suburbs in order to get it.”

The center has begun hosting summer day camps for rising third graders to rising eighth graders, who were in attendance for Tuesday’s ceremony, and afterward, played small games on the courts. Then in the evening, PYB will have a summer academy for teenagers in the high school level.

“We’re already operating from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and we just started yesterday,” Akbar said. “The thing I think we’re most proud of is that when we were waiting for the physical structure to be built, we were running programs the whole time and that means a lot when you’re trying to build trust in the community.”

“The game is important, but human beings and young people are so much more than just the game. I grew up playing basketball here, I’m a Public League grad. When I think about all the folks that came before us, like the John Chaneys of the world, who taught life through basketball — why not use this to deliver life-changing opportunities?”

» READ MORE: A new 100,000-square-foot basketball facility in Nicetown gives Philly youths the space they crave

But there’s still more work to be done. Now that the building is open, PYB will look to start phase two of its project, which includes making the building next door to the Horwitz Center — that the organization purchased — into a $20 million health clinic and workforce development hub.

“Parents and caregivers are craving safe places for young people,” Akbar said. “A safe space that they can trust. … We get a chance to do and be that.”