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Phalen Leadership Academies charter network seeks $10 million for sports complex

Students in the gym at James and Rosemary Phalen Leadership Academy, which is hoping to build new facilities to offer more space for basketball and other sports. (Provided Photo/Chalkbeat Indiana/Amelia Pak-Harvey)

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For Javonte Bailey, being on the track team at James and Rosemary Phalen Leadership Academy meant running through the hallways and up the cramped staircase by the school’s only small gym. 

Track is one of several sports teams at the Indianapolis school that must take advantage of whatever space is available in the hallway, or auditorium, or gym — or even a parking lot turned into a miniature football field outside. 

“We’re literally all on top of each other,” said Zion Maxwell, a junior on the cheer team, who worries about being too loud during practice while the after-school tutoring classes are nearby. 

To help students like Zion, the Phalen Leadership Academies charter network is seeking to raise $10 million by 2025 for a sports complex at the far eastside school of roughly 800 students. The charter school is located in a high-needs area that relies on community resources to keep students safe and engaged after school. 

Students at James and Rosemary Phalen — one of several Phalen schools in Indianapolis — say their peers are currently deterred from enrolling in after-school sports by the space limitations and lack of facilities. A new sports complex, they say, would also ease transportation headaches and provide a secure and healthy environment for students. 

“It’ll be a safe place,” said Lakyi Herring-Jackson, a junior. “A place for people who live over here on the far eastside, for them to stay off the streets, stay away from the violence, stay away from the things that aren’t good for them.”

The network is turning to donors to help build a field for football, track, and soccer on a nine-acre plot of land next to the school. Officials also hope to build a new basketball facility with two full courts for practice. 

Having a sports complex at the school would allow parents with limited transportation options to actually see their children compete, students said. It would also mean some students, such as those on the football team, won’t need to leave the school to practice like they did in the past. 

Earlier this year, the Central Indiana Land Trust donated the nine-acre plot next to the school. In addition to the field for football, track and soccer, officials hope to use it for a concession stand and fieldhouse. 

The school has also raised a little under $2 million toward the project so far, said Earl Martin Phalen, the founder and CEO of the Phalen network. 

Phalen said he hopes individuals, foundations, and corporations will serve as donors for the complex, which will be named after Sean Cowdrey, his nephew. Naming rights are also available for parts of the complex such as the track or the field, he said. 

“It’ll be nice for people to come to Phalen and see what we offer, instead of us having to go out,” Zion said. 

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering public education.