Kroc Center to aid Salvation Army, east Biloxi by late 2010

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The late Joan Kroc's seven year old dream is about to come to life.  And when it does, east Biloxi will prosper.

The dream is the $14 million Ray and Joan Kroc Corp Community Center.  It's part recreation complex, part performing arts center, and part Salvation Army worship center.  To celebrate the beginning phase of the Kroc Center, the music of the children's group Wings echoed across the Yankie Stadium turf.

What once made the east Biloxi football field so special was how it brought a community together. High school football fans filled the stands each fall, cheering for players like A.J. Holloway to light up the scoreboard.

"Oh yes man, a lot of great memories from that," the former Biloxi High School football player said.

Games like the Shrimp Bowl may be gone. But people are about to come back to Yankie Stadium, and east Biloxi, thanks to the late Ray and Joan Kroc, and the Salvation Army.

Major Will Cundiff is with the local Salvation Army.

"This is an answered prayer.  Dreams come true," he said at the groundbreaking celebration.

The $14 million Kroc Center will be built in the parking lot where the groundbreaking ceremony was held. The building erected on the north end of Yankie Stadium will house recreational, educational, spiritual and fine arts activities -- all run by Salvation Army staff members.

Maxwell Feener is the territorial commander of the Salvation Army.

"It will have the dreams of many precious young people come true, become a reality," he said.

The vision for a place that brings children and music back to this east Biloxi property came from the late Joan Kroc, the wife of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc.  Her multi-million dollar contribution to the Salvation Army in 2002 started a chain of events that brought the Kroc Center, and its opportunities for Biloxi's children, back to Yankie Stadium.

Bill Stallworth represents the area where the Kroc Center will be built.

"I can't think of a more fitting monument to be built for all those who were lost, and all those who are yet to come than this facility," he said.

The Salvation Army in Biloxi received $14 million to build the Kroc Center.  It also got an additional $28 million dollar endowment from the Kroc foundation to run the facility once it opens.  Activities inside the Kroc Center should begin in late 2010.

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