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Youth center affiliated with NFL to be created in central Arlington

DALLAS -- Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck stood before the dignitaries gathered in the Hall of State to talk about one of the most important votes in his city's history.

"Five years ago, we asked the citizens of Arlington whether we should build a stadium and help the Cowboys," Cluck said. "We didn't know then about all the possibilities the stadium has brought to Arlington and North Texas."

Cowboys Stadium, jointly funded by Arlington taxpayers and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is the reason North Texas will play host to its first Super Bowl on Feb. 6.

But one of the ancillary benefits of the Super Bowl is also the centerpiece of the National Football League's legacy programs -- the Youth Education Town (YET), which provides at-risk young people an opportunity to learn and live in a safe environment.

The North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee announced Thursday at the State Fair of Texas that Arlington will be the location of the Super Bowl XLV youth center.

The Salvation Army DFW Metroplex Command will own and manage the YET, which will be at the Salvation Army's site at 712 W. Abrams St.

Cluck said about 2,000 at-risk kids live in the targeted area, with perhaps more than 600 of them homeless.

Salvation Army Maj. Ward Matthews said plans are to add 8,000 to 10,000 square feet to the building at an estimated cost of $1.5 million, which Matthews said he hoped could be raised by contributions by philanthropists and donations of material from construction-related companies.

The YET has been awarded a $1 million grant from NFL Charities, which the community is expected to match. But Arlington is already the beneficiary of $1 million from the Gene and Jerry Jones Arlington Youth Foundation. The funds will come from the city's stadium contract with Jones, which stipulates grants of $500,000 annually to benefit Arlington youth for 15 years.

Matthews said that he hoped the $2 million in seed money would not have to be used for construction but reserved for programs.

The youth center will open as an after-school and weekend facility, focusing on recreation, education, computer training, music, arts and crafts and anti-gang programs.

The YET is tentatively set to open in February 2012. Matthews said the YETs sometimes take up to four years to get off the ground. The NFL legacy program started in 1992 in Los Angeles.

More than 100 people attended the event, among them host committee Chairman Roger Staubach, Vice Chairman Troy Aikman, Gene and Charlotte Jones and mayors, city council members and other VIPs.

"This is one of the most important announcements and will be remembered as a legacy of the first Super Bowl in North Texas," Aikman told the gathering.

One person who was not present because of a previous commitment will play an instrumental role in the YET startup. Host committee President Bill Lively said that former Cowboy Emmitt Smith, enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, will be the first chairman of the YET board whose major task will be raising money so the youth center can be self-sustaining.

Other board members will be announced during Super Bowl week.

"Emmitt told me that when he was a kid, he played football on a Salvation Army team and learned about being on a team," Lively said. "I told Emmitt that I would like him to be the founding chairman and he said, 'Sure.'"

Pete Alfano, 817-390-7985

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