Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield's $6.5 million addition means more programs for kids, teens

RIDGEFIELD — Construction is underway on the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield's $6.5 million expansion, intended to better serve the 86-year-old club's burgeoning tween and teen population, in particular. 

Work on the 11,000-square-foot addition began Aug. 22 and has progressed very nicely since then, said Michael Flynn, chief executive officer. He hopes the addition will be completed by mid-June 2023. 

“That puts us in a position where we’d open the summer camp in late June fully operable with the new wing of the facility open,” Flynn said. “That’s really our goal – summer camp is our busiest time of year, so there’s some real time constraints that we’re working in to make sure that gets done.”

Over the last 15 years, Flynn said the club’s membership and daily attendance has grown almost 400 percent and they’re “overdue for the space.”

Flynn explained part of the club’s “extreme growth” has been in its sixth- through 12th-grade population, who represent about half the club’s 3,000-member enrollment. The addition will allow the club to continue that growth pattern without having to turn away kids, which Flynn said is critical to the club’s mission.

He said the new wing will be largely geared toward that age group because the facility doesn’t have “enough space in place to continue to do bigger, better things with that age group.”

The first floor will have a large “tween center” to provide middle school children with a space for education, art, leadership development and other opportunities the club will expand.

The upstairs will be largely dedicated to high school students and offer services geared toward mental health, anxiety, suicide prevention, gun violence prevention and other similar topics, while providing teens with a positive environment to engage with their peers.

The upstairs section of the new wing will also have a multipurpose center — which Flynn said the club will call “a technology café” — that will encompass career exploration, STEAM and other topics discussed by students in sixth through 12th grade. 

On the bottom floor of the new wing, an auxiliary gym will be installed for students to engage in athletics, dance, recreation, movement and other activities.

The project will also allow the Boys & Girls Club to repurpose its facility to become more of a multi-program space for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. He added the club envisions its younger members using the new wing as well.

“It will allow us to continue to grow and thrive and not just serve more kids but also do more for the current kids,” Flynn said of the expansion. “It’ll allow us to have even more of an impact.”

Funding for the project

The club began considering the project about seven years ago and launched a capital campaign about five years ago, Flynn said. 

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Flynn said the club’s been very successful in “the private phase of the campaign,” adding “it’s largely all private dollars, individual donors that have contributed to us being able to make this a reality.”

Out of the $6.5 million cost of the project, $2 million came from state funding.

Formerly known as the Boys Club, the club opened in Ridgefield in 1936 and has since become “a longstanding tradition and a key part of the Ridgefield community,” Flynn said. The club operated out of an old house on the corner of Main Street from 1936 to 1958 before moving its operations to 41 Governor St.

From 1958 to 2007, the club operated out of a club house that was about 6,000 square feet. In 2007, the club organized a capital campaign and raised $6 million to build the 19,000-square-foot facility it operates out of today.