The grand opening of the restored Schuylkill County camp where Muhammad Ali trained in the 1970s will take place Saturday to mark the third anniversary of the legendary boxer’s death.
Beginning Saturday, June 8, Fighter’s Heaven, known as Deer Lake when Ali worked out at the six-acre site just south of Pottsville, will be open to the public on weekends.
“People have wanted to come and check it out, so we’re going to open it on weekends,” said Mike Madden, who purchased the site in 2017 and has spent more than $1 million restoring its 13 buildings and the surrounding landscape. “And if people want to bring a group during the week, they can make an appointment for a tour with our caretaker.”
Saturday’s event, a fund-raiser for a Pottsville charity, will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Speakers will include Madden, son of former NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden; ex-heavyweight champ Tim Witherspoon, who was an Ali sparring partner there; and Gene Kilroy, Ali’s longtime manager.
The final stage of the restoration, Madden said, was finding or replicating period furniture and signage for the cabins, kitchen, gym and mosque that Ali used from 1972 to 1980.
“There was a couch, for example, that sat in the room where Ali used to get his massages,” Madden said. “We scoured Schuylkill County thrift shops looking for a replica. Finally, we broke down and bought one and had it reupholstered.”
Since last fall, more than 20 student field trips, ranging from third graders to a college class, have privately toured the camp that sits at the top of Sculpts Hill Road off Route 61.
Madden said he hopes one day to see the facility used for business retreats and other events, but for now, he hopes it would educate people about Ali, the three-time heavyweight champion and one of the 20th century’s most significant sports figures. Ali died on June 3, 2016, at 74.