When Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, entrusted the Salvation Army with $1.5 billion before she passed away, it was with the goal of building a series of community centers across the nation that would provide people with educational, artistic, and athletic opportunities. The Greenville chapter of the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center has been open since 2011 and hosts a full range of athletic activities, from tennis to soccer to basketball and beyond.
In the past, the league sports at Greenville’s Kroc Center were handled by outside organizations, with the center simply serving as a location. The different leagues would lease space from the center for their various sports.
That has all changed now that the Kroc Center decided to run their own programs and expand their sports offerings to offer adult leagues. Under the supervision of Zack Stoudt as league coordinator, the Kroc Center has just finished their first season of soccer, kickball, basketball, and other sports, and they’re just about to launch their second.
“We wanted to do something in-house,” Stoudt says. “We’ve hosted a lot of stuff for organizations around the Greenville-Spartanburg area, but we wanted to host our own leagues and grow our own brand, especially with downtown Greenville exploding the way is has over the last few years. It made sense to become more of a part of that.”
Stoudt brought plenty of athletic experience to the table when he took the job, having played football at the University of Louisville and the University of Mississippi. He even has a local connection: His younger brother, Cole, was a starting quarterback at Clemson University.
“After I finished up with school, I’d been trying to find my way back into sports,” Stoudt says. “Then this opportunity came up a few months ago, and I was excited for the chance to work for an organization like the Salvation Army.”
The Kroc Adult Leagues (KAL) are for men and women ages 18 and up, and those interested in participating can register on the center’s website or contact them directly by phone. In addition to their facility, the Kroc Center also handles the roster and the scheduling of league games, as well as providing the equipment and referees.
“We have to make sure we do everything as good or better than what’s been offered here over the past several years,” Stoudt says. “We take on the responsibility of providing everything for the people that just want to come out and have fun up to the player that wants to compete seriously.
He adds, “So we’re taking on the responsibility of making sure that we deliver on everything else we’ve delivered on in the past. And it seemed like everyone that was involved with season one was very happy.”
Ultimately, both Stoudt and Kroc Center Executive Director Steve Cook believe that the new programs they’re offering are not just part of an effort to be a bigger part of Greenville’s booming downtown area, they’re also part of the Salvation Army and the Kroc family’s original vision.
“We’re merging the community together through the Salvation Army, providing a place where everyone can meet and share the goals of sports and fellowship,” Cook says. “We want to be the epicenter of fun, faith, family and friendship in Greenville.”