The CLCA and Chicago Hope Academy Partnership
In 2007, Bob Muzikowski, Chicago Hope Academy Founder, and former NY Old Blue flanker, and Keith Brown, President of Chicago Lions Rugby, came together to form a unique, mutually beneficial partnership to further the development of rugby and to support youth development in Chicago. The Chicago Lions helped establish the Chicago Hope Academy Eagles Rugby program. The partnership worked so well that in 2015, the Chicago Hope Eagles, with veteran Chicago Lions coaching, won their first state championship. The championship was the successful culmination of many years of hard work, determination and sacrifice by untold numbers of Eagles and Lions.
During the summer of 2008, Keith and Bob (pictured above) with the help of Hope students and Chicago Lions players and alums, created the first Lions for Hope Field at 2341 W. Roosevelt Road. Together, Hope and the Lions manually leveled, graded and sodded the field so both organizations would have a rugby field that they could call home. Hope and Lions practiced and played matches from the fall of 2008 thru 2015 on that pitch. Unfortunately, the field was not owned but leased at $5,000 per month, and reasonable terms for the acquisition of the property never came to pass.
In order to support the partnership, the Chicago Lions launched “the Lions for Hope” Benefit to help offset the field’s lease agreement. The partnership continues to thrive and benefits both the Chicago Lions and Chicago Hope Academy youth
In 2013, Chicago Hope academy was presented with the opportunity to acquire 15 acres of land a few blocks to the north and west in a quiet and undeveloped pocket of North Lawndale between Harrison and Taylor streets. The land was purchased in 2014 and Hope began the development of a full sized rugby field, state of the art Olympic track and site for future high school expansion on the north seven acre parcel.
In 2015, at the conclusion of the lease for the Roosevelt Rd. pitch, the CLCA led the way to creating a permanent home for the Lions when they entered into a formal partnership with Chicago Hope to purchase a 50% interest in the eight acres “South” parcel between Polk and Taylor streets. After two years of design and construction due diligence, it was time to go public with the project, The Lions for Hope Sports Complex. A full year was utilized to gain the support of the Alderman, the community, the Mayor’s Office and the Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development.
After all support coalesced, an extensive zoning change was undertaken and successfully concluded in the spring of 2018 to allow for the development of a youth focused, rugby centric community facility and two state of the art artificial turf athletic fields. Both fields will be lit for maximum utility, and the primary field will also be domed seasonally for full year usage. The goal is to have the first field built by May 1st, 2019.
Bob and Chicago Hope spearheaded the redevelopment of the athletic field at the Park District’s Altgeld Park where it now is artificial turf with Rugby, Football, soccer and youth baseball being played. Bob was instrumental in raising private funds to help partially fund the field. Altgeld Park then became the Chicago Lions practice field.
Bob was not done and gained access to Attack Athletics indoor training facility that is now called Quest Athletics. This facility will eventually be partially owned by Chicago Hope Academy. The Chicago Lions used Quest for their indoor training in the offseason.
There have been several Chicago Lions that have helped support Chicago Hope Academy over the years and the Lions relationship with Hope continues to grow.
The mission is to build athletic fields and develop programs for the children of Chicago’s North Lawndale and East Garfield Park communities. Through rugby and other sports, we will expand life opportunities for the youth and increase their social capital. This project is not only to enhance the community but also give children a safe haven in the neighborhood.
The vision for the Lions for Hope Sports Complex will be to provide a safe place for the community to gather together. Athletic fields will provide at risk children the opportunity to participate in a variety of sport and extracurricular activities within their own community. Athletics and education come together by forming partnerships with local schools and community organizations to provide mentoring programs that encourage children to stay in school.