County rents out building to boxing club




Robert Gonzales was on Cloud Nine Tuesday afternoon after the Finney County Commission allowed a rental agreement with the fairgrounds that will provide the local youth boxing club "Bad Boyz" with a new home.

The agreement allows the club to use the West Pavilion at the fairgrounds for boxing activities Monday through Thursday, as well as host quarterly, admission-charging events. The club would pay the county $7,120 in usage fees each year.

The club currently trains at a building on East Fulton but their lease is ending and a new owner has other plans for the building that required the boxers to be out by Feb. 28.

In an interview after the meeting, Gonzales, the club's coach, said the county's building is a "Godsend."

"I never imagined we'd move to a place that big. For our training, cardio and running we can use the whole building, and it will give us the opportunity to grow even more than we have been," he said.

Originally started 20 years ago to reduce the number of kids getting in trouble for fighting, the Police Athletic League boxing club is a not-for-profit organization that teaches kids the fundamentals of boxing and the importance of education. It was renamed about 15 years ago to Bad Boyz Boxing Club, and has seen several national champions and a couple of world champions move through the program.

Roughly 30 to 60 youth participate in the program each year, and about 46 participate right now, Gonzales said.

"I'm real strict with my kids. Education comes first. The kids know that," Gonzales said. 'Our motto has always been, 'Fill the playgrounds, not the prisons.' That's one of the things I run the gym by, is to keep kids out of the system. We have a lot of success stories."

Gonzales told the county commission he was looking for a long-term arrangement to accommodate the boxing club.

"In 25 years, I've moved four times. It's growing. We have more kids, seems like, every year the numbers go up. I'm looking for a permanent place," he said.

Fairgrounds Manager Angie Clark said increasing youth sports activities at the fairgrounds is a positive move that also helped address a need for rentals on weekdays.

"We're wanting to diversify our community events and this meets our criteria," she said. "We're really trying to diversify and have as many things down there as we can that appeal to the entire community."

Though the commission normally doesn't sign off on individual building rentals, Clark and County Administrator Randy Partington brought it to the commission because it is likely to be more of a long-term rental than most rentals.

"As long as you guys can work this out you don't need our signatures. I think this a great idea. Work it out," Commissioner Roman Halbur said.

Clark said she wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Gonzales said he hopes to move into the county building by mid-February.

"With us, it's not about winning in the ring, it's about winning in life. I'm excited about the move," he said.

In other business Tuesday, county resident Leonard Hitz again talked to the commission about his idea to revive a Cowboy Poetry event. Hitz talked about the idea two weeks ago but decided to come back for Tuesday's meeting to clarify that he is not asking the county for money to support the project.

Hitz said his goal is to raise awareness and generate interest in the event.

"It's my intent to make it grow, and it's my intent to make it stand on its own," Hitz said. "This can grow from just a poetry event, which is the No. 1 thing, but it can grow to have vendors coming in and sell them spaces. You could have western art. You could have chuck wagons. There are so many things this could expand into."

For several years in the 1990s, there was a Cowboy Poetry event attached to Beef Empire Days, but it was discontinued after losing funding. Hitz said wants to create a similar event, though not necessarily attached to something like Beef Empire Days.

Commissioners took no action on Hitz' idea.

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