The idea may have come to Dominick Ambrose in a car ride, driving miles west so that his daughters, Alicia and Ashley, could participate in…
The idea may have come to Dominick Ambrose in a car ride, driving miles west so that his daughters, Alicia and Ashley, could participate in sports.
The indoor facilities were located west of Cleveland when the snow was piled high around Ambrose’s home in Munson Township, making outdoor athletics a summer dream.
“I thought about the need of having something in Chardon,” Ambrose said. “We are nationally known for being in the snowbelt, and we have beautiful facilities — but we have nothing for the seven and eight months of horrible weather.”
Ambrose happened to own a large warehouse, formerly called the Eagle America Building at 510 Center Street in Chardon. It was a woodworker’s outlet, storing tools and bits.
Now Ambrose is converting the facility into an indoor recreation center, called the IGNITE Sports and Enrichment Center.
The center will include two multi-purpose courts, where basketball, volleyball and other sports can be played.
And then there’s the batting cages, which should be popular for Northeast Ohio baseball and softball teams, where the weather does not usually cooperate in the spring-time.
“I can’t tell you how many people have asked when the batting cages are going to be up,” Ambrose said. “People got the flyer and are already calling and asking to use them.”
Ambrose has worked closely with the city of Chardon for a few years, and the park and recreation board has agreed to move the basketball programs to the IGNITE facility, said City Manager Randy Sharpe.
The financial cost to the city is the same as what they’ve been paying, Sharpe said.
“We’re looking forward to it and having additional space,” he added.
Work is still being down at the center. There will be no membership fees and programs will be pay as you go.
But it’s not just about athletics, says IGNITE’s Executive Director Natalie Richley.
IGNITE stands for Instilling Growth & Nurturing Individual Talents & Exceptionalities.
Richley, who was born and raised in Chardon and a degree in special education, has created adaptive programs that will focus on music, art and cooking therapy for children and adults with special needs.
Her uncle, Jim Filla, has Down’s syndrome.
“He has always needed a place to go,” Richley said. “But for enrichment activities, something outside of work.”
She stresses that social interaction is important for people with special needs.
“They can regress,” she said. “We don’t want that. They thrive on other people to give them attention and to communicate. For them to be able to come out and utilize this facility enriches their lives and engages them.”
Added Ambrose: “Whatever you and I can do, they can do it, as well. But they need different kind of equipment to do it.”
“So nobody will be turned away,” Richley said.
For Filla, only a basketball and hoop is needed. Playing basketball is one of his favorite things to do.
Richley hopes to start an IGNITE Special Olympics one day.
IGNITE is currently registering six-week music classes for children while work continues. The cost of a 6-week program is $70, with supplemental funding available to offset fees.
There is space behind the complex for expansion. As Ambrose opens the back door of IGNITE and looks at the open grass fields, he envisions a soccer field and running track.
For more information you can visit IGNITE’s Facebook page by searching for IGNITE Sports & Enrichment Center.
For video tours of the facilties, visit the online version of this story at www.geaugamapleleaf.com.
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