Growing beyond the game

KOLOA — Perhaps no one is looking forward to the grand opening of the Southside Sports Center at Kauai Christian Fellowship more than Darren Cote.

“This is going to be a blast to see the community come together with the common bond of sports and fitness and enjoy life a little bit more and to offer our neighbors a first class, beautiful sports center for their enjoyment and fitness benefits,” he said.

Cote is the director of the $2 million, 14,000-square-foot facility, and is also the man known in the church as the “sports pastor.”

He’ll be overseeing the site that will feature a college regulation playing court, a youth center and a free-for-kids CrossFit gym. Bleachers, a basketball court and a chain-link fence are all that’s needed to complete the project.

But the center is far from just being all about sports.

“My role also is to care about people, to hear their stories, become a friend and if desired, be someone to talk to about things in life that are more important than sports,” Cote said.

The grand opening of Southside Sports Center, more than four years in the making, is set for 3 p.m. Sunday. Festivities will include a water slide, bounce house, a classic car show, a CrossFit demo, a comedy show, live music and prizes.

The public is welcome to stop by and check things out.

Pastor Rick Bundschuh said the new gym is a place where the community can get together for fun and be active, and also to grow spiritually.

The center will help Kauai Christian Fellowship “improve our game spiritually” with “good sportsmanship.”

“We’re a church, not a sports organization,” he said. “We’re a church, not a social organization. We believe God created people as emotional beings, as social beings, as spiritual beings and as physical beings. That’s why this gym is so important.”

Cote, who recently moved to Kauai with his family, said he’s excited to provide not just physical training to kids at the new gym.

He hopes the sports center attracts more of the community to the church, but said kids who simply need a place to hang out after school are welcome, too.

“Sports enables and fosters a healthy environment,” he said. “We have no intention to preach to them while they’re shooting the hoop or telling the gospel, but if the moment opens up, I want to be there to cheer them up.”

Southside Sports Center went from concept to completion in about four years, with almost $2 million coming from donations and volunteer help, Cote said. Their largest and initial donation came from a Mainlander who was excited to see the project get off the ground, he said.

“I’m most proud of the people of this church that waited for this,” he said. “The people that got behind this. It was such a slow process.”

The gym will offer several leagues when it opens, including volleyball and basketball, but it is also looking to host existing leagues, Cote said.

Bundschuh encourages folks to use the new church to host private sports-themed gatherings. He said on-campus events will always be, “drug-free, alcohol-free, and potty-mouth free.”

Once the gym opens up, the community is welcome almost daily from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Wednesday and Thursday nights between 6 and 8 p.m. is for junior high students and high school students, respectively, he said. But even then, students of that age are still welcome during those times.

The gym is closed Sunday mornings.

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Michelle Iracheta, police and courts reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or miracheta@thegardenisland.com. Follow Michelle on Twitter @cephira

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