SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — First, it was Atlanta, and now another metro Atlanta community will have its own midnight basketball with a spin.
The City of South Fulton is adding a new program to help curb crime and keep young residents busy throughout the summer.
Midnight Madness registration is open, and people have until Sunday to sign up. It's a basketball tournament focused on bringing the community together with games planned on Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The inaugural basketball showdown is being hosted by District 5 Councilman Corey A. Reeves in partnership with South Fulton Parks and Recreation. The matchups will take place in Burdett Gym starting June 2.
Before the games, players partake in a mandatory one-hour class to build up their life skills. The classes will cover various trade skills, and financial literacy topics and even introduce players to community resources.
Registration is free, sign up here.
The outside of the Burdett Gym may look like a typical building, but inside, what will happen should change the lives of 20 young men ages 17 to 28 in the City of South Fulton. This unusual idea came to South Fulton Parks and Recreation Director Ternard Turner.
“It's all about reducing recidivism rates," Turner said. “We're talking about public safety issues, mentorships, fatherhood, so that's what makes us different than any other midnight basketball league.”
Turner came up with the idea of an eight-week midnight basketball league on Friday and Saturday nights, similar to Atlanta's midnight basketball, but what makes South Fulton's program unique is young men in the program will take classes in a room next to the basketball court to become certified in a career paying $35 to $40 an hour. Young women can take part in the Workforce Academy from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The new midnight basketball program is just for men at this point.
“We also have Workforce Academy that I came up with, and basically what that is, is it's a six-week certification program in HVAC and electrical engineering," Turner said.
The idea of midnight basketball goes well beyond the basketball court. The dates and times are chosen with the hope of reducing crime in South Fulton.
“We've seen that those are two of our biggest days with respect to crime that... occurs inside of the city, so it gives us an opportunity to put them in a central location where we're able to engage and reach out to them and keep them off of the streets," South Fulton Police Chief Keith Meadows said.
Meadows said his department has seen a big uptick in youth crime over the past year, and he thinks this program is just what the city needs.
“That's the big thing that we're looking at doing with our children is trying to give them an alternative to not just that gang life but that crime life as well," Meadows said.
“You own your way to open up your own company," Turner said. "This is millions and millions of dollars that you're going to be able to pass down and feed your family for generations to come.”
The hope is young people can start a new path in life while having a little fun along the way.
Just 20 slots are open for young men in the inaugural midnight basketball program, but Turner would like to grow that to 60 residents after the program gets up and running.