Success Story

An Assist for Philadelphia Youth Basketball's Game-Changing Play

December 22, 2021

Philadelphia’s rich basketball history is getting even better—and Ballard Spahr is proud to be right in the thick of the action.

The firm serves as pro bono counsel to Philadelphia Youth Basketball. Last week, the nonprofit organization broke ground on a 100,000-square-foot community empowerment facility—the culmination of seven years of organizing, planning, and fundraising. Opening is projected for the spring of 2023.

Ballard Spahr attorneys handled all of the extensive legal work for the transaction for PYB to acquire a former furniture factory in Philadelphia’s Nicetown neighborhood and convert it to the Alan Horwitz “Sixth Man” Center. Named for the Philadelphia 76ers super-fan who donated $5 million for the project, the state-of-the-art facility will contain seven basketball courts, including a 1,200-seat arena court.

But the Center at 4250 Wissahickon Ave. will house much more than just basketball. Located in a neighborhood grappling with historical poverty, crime, and other barriers to success, the Center will include space for youth and workforce development programs, classrooms, multimedia education facilities, financial literacy workshops, health and wellness programs, strength training and conditioning, a retail store, a boardroom and office space, and a Philadelphia Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Center is the centerpiece of PYB’s mission: to leverage the iconic game of basketball to help today’s underserved youth overcome the most urgent and systemic issues facing their communities.

PYB currently runs cutting-edge programs that benefit more than 800 young people a year through a holistic approach including mentorship, academic enrichment, health and wellness, and leadership development. With the new facility, PYB leaders expect that number to increase to more than 5,000 young people served each year.

At a triumphant groundbreaking ceremony last week, PYB CEO and co-Founder Kenny Holdsman issued a “special shout-out” to retired Ballard Spahr Partner John Langel, former Chair of Ballard Spahr’s Litigation Department and longtime Chair of the PYB Board of Directors, for his leadership in the effort.

Mr. Holdsman thanked the firm and singled out Bart Mellits, a partner and former Chair of the firm’s Real Estate Department, for playing point in the extensive lineup of Ballard Spahr legal professionals who contributed—47 lawyers and paralegals who pivoted as needed to handle PYB’s ambitious game plan.

“Ballard has been our pro bono legal counsel for seven years, saving us literally millions of dollars in fees,” Mr. Holdsman said. “Bart, you have treated us like we are your most important client. Thank you.”

Over the years, in addition to real estate transactional work, including land use entitlements, Ballard Spahr legal professionals have advised and represented PYB on corporate governance, labor and employment policies and matters, employee benefits, trademark issues, and contract drafting and review, among other legal areas. These professionals contributed thousands of hours to help PYB accomplish its stated mission to build programs and facilities “of, by, for, and with the communities" it serves.

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