From left: U.S. Marine Corps. Maj. Stephen Desmond and Herbert Sweat,...

From left: U.S. Marine Corps. Maj. Stephen Desmond and Herbert Sweat, a retired Vietnam veteran and chairman of the board of the Veteran Housing Community at Mitchel Field, look over renderings for upcoming renovations on Thursday.  Credit: Danielle Silverman

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran handed over the keys Thursday to the new operator of an underutilized Navy gym at Mitchel Field in Garden City that will be transformed in the coming year into an athletic facility for youth and area veterans.

The renamed Mitchel Athletic Center will undergo $2 million in capital renovations, including updates to the existing facility, as well as construction of a new field house with additional basketball courts and classrooms and a second building with an indoor turf field.

"This will become a community hub and provide real opportunities, not just for the military families that live in this community, but Nassau's many sporting leagues and youth groups, while also creating jobs through the renovation process," Curran said at a news conference Thursday outside the Navy Gym complex, located next to the Mitchel Field Veteran Housing Community.

The county signed a 15-year lease agreement with NY Youth Sports Network, a Huntington-based youth athletic club that will operate the facility. The nonprofit will pay Nassau $100,000 annually and has the option to extend its lease an additional five years. The county will also share in naming rights and sponsorship opportunities with the tenants.

"Veterans need this and kids need this, now more than ever," said Jim Fox, NY Youth Sports Network's operator. "We saw [during the pandemic] when they couldn't play sports and how much the kids suffered."

The county currently runs the 2.3-acre gym facility, located on the north end of Mitchel Field abutting the housing community — which is home to 42 veteran families and 18 active military families.

Nassau provides permits for groups to use the existing gym, which consists of a basketball court, two locker rooms, a weight room with exercise equipment and an outdoor pool.

The agreement allows veterans that reside at Mitchel Field free use of the gym, a week of summer camp for children under 14, free participation for residents under 16 in all in-house leagues, and sports scholarship opportunities for eligible youth athletes.

The Youth Sports Network will also provide permits for outside groups to use the property and plans to use the center as a hub for their AAU Urban Initiative, which utilizes athletics to build relationships between at-risk youths in minority communities and law enforcement.

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