[Noozhawk’s note: First in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation.]
When Clay Holdren was a kid playing basketball around southern Santa Barbara County with his friends and brothers, the adults around him struggled to juggle game times on a variety of courts, catch as catch can.
By the time he was in high school, Holdren was helping lay rebar and pour cement at the Page Youth Center where today he coaches his own children in the facility he and his peers helped inspire.
“I feel like it’s a huge benefit to the community,” said Holdren, now board vice president and treasurer for the nonprofit hub of sports activities on the South Coast.
“I grew up playing sports. It’s a great way to learn a lot of life lessons, about teamwork and sportsmanship and all that stuff that’s really important moving forward. The Page is a great facility for kids and adults to use, whether it’s for basketball, volleyball or pretty much anything.”
Holdren’s dad, Ed, was among the team of parents whose imagination sparked the birth of the youth center in 1984. By 1991, the Page Youth Foundation had come on board to make it all possible, and Holdren and the gang were out pouring cement on what would become the 23,000-square-foot sports facility at 4540 Hollister Ave.
Its main feature, the 16,000-square-foot gymnasium, boasts two full-size basketball courts. It can also be broken down into four volleyball courts, or two indoor soccer fields.
“We are community based and focused on providing the best for our young people and adults in terms of athletics and health and fitness,” said Tim Grigsby, the center’s program director and interim executive director.
“We embrace our partnerships to help bridge the community and bring it together.”
The Page Youth Center focuses primarily on youth basketball, but the space is also used for adult programs, including badminton, Jazzercise and ping pong. There’s indoor soccer for all ages, open gym basketball games, youth volleyball and futsal.
The center has formed partnerships with CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), SafeKids, Cottage Children’s Medical Center, Cottage Health and Safe Kids Santa Barbara County. Its Health Advisory Council of Dr. Penny Morgan Overgaard, Salvador Robledo and Gena Topping keeps the facility and its coaches at the forefront of healthy youth athletic practices.
“Everything we do here is sports driven,” Grigsby told Noozhawk. “It’s what we do, what we do well. We’re a pretty small group, so we focus our energy on the things we do well.”
Located midway between downtown Santa Barbara and the heart of Goleta, sandwiched between Goleta Cemetery and Hollister Avenue, the gym serves some 2,000 youth and 500 adults every year.
Operating on a $700,000 budget, the facility provides a winter basketball league and sports clinics.
It also serves as home to Vipers Basketball Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Youth Volleyball, Joga Futsal Santa Barbara and Titan Sports Performance.
The center has given rise to Olympian and professional volleyball players Todd Rodgers and Dax Holdren, UC Santa Barbara legend and retired professional basketball player Carrick DeHart, and Jason Donnelly, now athletic director and girls volleyball coach at Laguna Blanca School.
But not every player is a rock star on the court, and Grigsby and Holdren agree: that was never the point.
“I want people to know that families can come have a great experience,” Holdren said. “The kids can play. The parent can cheer. And everyone can learn about themselves through watching or participating in sports.”
And maybe they’ll give back.
Many of the center’s athletes like Holdren may have played through high school or even college, but never entered the highest echelon of their sports. Instead, lessons learned on the court carry over into their lives running their own companies, contributing to their own communities, even returning to Page Youth Center as coaches, volunteers and donors to provide for a new generation.
Tony Mancuso, chief financial officer for Mission Linen Supply, a volunteer basketball coach at the center and the board president, spends his waking hours balancing numbers for his employer and strategizing game plans for his basketball team.
“I spend a ridiculous amount of time there, to be honest with you,” he said. “I love it. I spend Thursday nights there for four hours. I know all the kids’ names, most of the parents’. They’re all my friends.
“I enjoy seeing the children have success, and being a part of it is just great.”
The center is funded largely through its programs. Three quarters of its budget comes from facility rentals and program fees with the remaining quarter covered by grants, donations and one annual special event — the upcoming Casino Royale on March 16.
“The Page Family Foundation is a huge one for us,” Grigsby said. “They’ve been with us from the early days. Without them, we probably wouldn’t exist, and their continual support helps us hit the targets we shoot for.”
Additional support has included grants and awards from The Towbes Foundation, Tuohy Foundation, Wood-Claeyssen Foundation, Chumash Foundation and Volunteen Foundation.
“We’re not membership focused,” Grigsby said. “We’re not part of a national organization. We’re grounded in this community, and bound by the needs of this community, not a national agenda.
“All the money raised stays locally. All of our focus is here with these kids.”