(KENNER, La) — The Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO), in partnership with the City of Kenner, celebrated the grand opening of NOLA Sports Center Monday evening. The indoor soccer company entered into a public-private partnership with the City of Kenner in order to operate out of the Butch Duhe Playground gymnasium. NOLA Sports Center made a significant investment to renovate the facility, which flooded during Hurricane Ida, creating 8 part time jobs, two full-time new jobs, and a unique opportunity for Kenner residents.
NOLA Sports Center, which caters to soccer enthusiasts of all ages, opened its doors in 2019 in The Esplanade Mall. The company navigated a series of challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the indefinite closure of The Esplanade due to Hurricane Ida, before relocating to the Sunrise Country Club temporarily. The indoor soccer business experienced tremendous growth in Metairie and sought to relocate, once again, to meet the demands of their clients.
The Cooperative Endeavor Agreement between NOLA Sports Center and the City of Kenner provides a benefit to both the business and the community. Not only did NOLA Sports Center invest in significant public improvements to the interior and exterior of the Butch Duhe Playground gymnasium, but the private company will also pay a monthly rent plus all utilities, provide programming for Kenner’s Recreation and After School Programs, and perform all routine maintenance for the facility.
“We are excited about this partnership with the City of Kenner, aimed at fostering community well-being and promoting an active lifestyle,” said NOLA Sports Center founder Rafael Carmona. “This partnership marks a significant milestone in the shared commitment to enhancing the quality of life for residents through accessible and wide-ranging activities and recreational opportunities for both kids and adults. Furthermore, it is important to note the support we’ve received from the JEDCO organization in the beginning stages of Nola Sports Center back when we were at The Esplanade Mall in 2020 as well as every step of the way through our expansion to this new location. Without their support, none of this project would have been made possible.”
JEDCO has played a significant role in the success of NOLA Sports Center since the company’s inception. The economic development commission financed 86% of the original facility in The Esplanade Mall, which covered leasehold improvements, inventory, and working capital to startup. When the sports complex was forced to relocate following The Esplanade Mall closure, JEDCO provided site selection support and advocated for the business partnership with the City of Kenner. JEDCO provided a second loan to relocate NOLA Sports Center to the Butch Duhe Playground and funded the site improvements. JEDCO financed 100% of the project.
“This grand opening is a direct result of the power of perseverance and partnership,” said JEDCO President and CEO Jerry Bologna. “JEDCO has proudly supported NOLA Sports Center’s growth and impact, even as the business faced many hardships outside of its control. Rafael’s determination to keep NOLA Sports Center open and operating is a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit at work. Through many joint efforts, NOLA Sports Center continues to bring recreational offerings, athletic education, and joy to hundreds of children and soccer enthusiasts across the Greater New Orleans region while also serving a significant benefit to the city of Kenner.”
Kenner’s overall Recreation numbers have declined significantly over the past several years. The Butch Duhe Playground recreation “district” currently has one of the lowest participation rates in Kenner. The public-private partnership aims to increase programming and interest in recreational sports, both at the facility and in the city overall.
“This is an exciting partnership for the City of Kenner. The improvements to the Butch Duhe Playground gymnasium and additional programming at the facility provide an immense public benefit to the community,” said Kenner Mayor Michael Glaser. “The demand for youth sports, particularly soccer resources, is very prevalent in Kenner. NOLA Sports Center is sure to be an excellent community partner and I look forward to seeing its impact on the quality of life for our kids. We are proud to welcome NOLA Sports Center back to the city and look forward to working together to bring important sports programming options for our residents in Kenner and neighboring communities.”
The ribbon cutting was held right before NOLA Sports Center’s first-ever “free play day,” which kicked off at 5:30pm. Organized free play, led by NOLA Sports Center staff, is offered from 5:30-7pm every Monday and Wednesday. Mondays are geared for ages 5-12 while Wednesday programming focuses on youth ages 13-18.
ABOUT JEDCO GROWTH FUND: JEDCO’s loan programs were designed to make financing options more flexible and accessible to businesses of all sizes. Specifically, the JEDCO Growth (JEDgrow) Loan Program provides funding to Jefferson Parish-based startups or small businesses. JEDgrow is one of several innovative loan programs that JEDCO uses to enhance the economic climate in Jefferson Parish. Learn more at JEDCO.org/loans/
ABOUT NOLA SPORTS CENTER: NOLA Sports Center is an indoor soccer facility committed to promoting health and fitness in the Greater New Orleans area. This collaboration aligns perfectly with NOLA Sports Center’s commitment to building a healthier, more vibrant community. Through this new public-private partnership, the business will work hand-in-hand with the City of Kenner to implement a range of initiatives that cater to diverse community needs. The collaboration will include community engagement programs, Health and Wellness campaigns, and discounted rates for Kenner residents seeking to engage with the Lil’ Kickers program, which focuses on helping children ages 18 months to 12 years build strong physical, intellectual and emotional skills using the game of soccer. Lil’ Kickers soccer classes for kids are packed with creative games structured to help kids learn soccer and grow as individuals. The innovative child development-focused curriculum helps kids reach important developmental milestones. Nola Sports Center also offers field reservations for private groups, team practices, event rentals, youth and adult soccer leagues, birthday parties, work/corporate parties, and soccer tournaments. The company will offer a variety of sports and games, including corn hole, flag football, lacrosse, dodgeball, kickball and more. If you are interested in getting more information about any of NOLA Sports Center’s programming, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504-355-1628.