October 21, 2014
Five years ago, Morris Laviero told his fellow directors of the Bristol Boys & Girls Club that if they didn’t do something soon, they’d have to lock up the doors of the old Laurel Street club and walk away from the decaying structure.
“We have to get a new building,” he told them.
In a ceremony Monday, Laviero handed the keys to a new $11 million facility to the club’s chief professional officer after the dedication of the new Don Tinty Bristol Boys and Girls Club Family Center on West Street.
“They did a great, great job,” said former Mayor Gerard Couture, one of a couple of hundred people who attended the dedication before getting a look inside at the new quarters on West Street.
The Rev. Alvin LeBlanc, pastor of St. Ann’s Church next door, called it a joyful day to see a “beautiful new edifice” erected that can help instill values, respect and responsibility to new generations of Bristol children.
The 40,000-square-foot club has a large field house, a technology center, a teen room and much more. It is not yet completely finished — there are a few loose ends, such as painting the lines on the gym floor — but it’s close.
John Fasolo, president of the club’s board of directors, called the new quarters “the best and most beautiful club in the state of Connecticut, if not in all of New England.”
He called it “a magnificent addition to downtown and the west side.”
“It’s an ‘oh, my God’ building,” Laviero said.
Mayor Ken Cockayne called it “an incredible investment” in the city’s children and “a huge accomplishment” for the people who pushed it to completion.
State Rep. Betty Boukus, a Plainville Democrat who was instrumental in securing $2 million in state funding, said the club is “a community treasure and it keeps getting better and better and better.”
Michael Suchopar, the chief professional officer of the club, said many visionaries had a hand in making dream come true.
“We’re going to do great things in the West End and in Bristol,” Suchopar said.
Club officials said the grand opening will take place on Veterans Day — Nov. 11 — when children will walk from the old club to the new one. A barter business plans to buy and renovate the original facility once it’s vacated.
The building was erected jointly by the S. Carpenter Co., a longtime Bristol firm, and the Torrington-based O&G Industries. Amara Associates was the architect.
The field house, named for the Fiondella family, is large enough to house two high school-sized basketball courts side by side, batting cages and volleyball courts.
Robert Fiondella, the capital campaign chairman, said he was pleased it could honor his ancestors who worked so hard to create a bright future for their family. But he also pointed out that Bristol was forward-thinking in its willingness to create and fund a community hospital, a large park system, two libraries and a boys and girls club.
Very few places did so much for children in years past, Fiondella said.
After working on the new club, he said, he learned “that generous spirit is still strong and alive” in his hometown.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol, said the list of donors “reads like a hall of fame for Bristol,” filled with names of “people who have always been there” to lend a hand to their community.
He said the mix of community donations and government grants is “a great American way to do things,” relying on “people of vision” to bring worthwhile projects to fruition.