Sanneh Foundation makes plans for more Conway upgrades

courtesy of the Sanneh Foundation The Sanneh Foundation, which manages Conway Recreation Center, is planning to make a series of outdoor renovations at the center during 2019. Planned upgrades include new LED lighting, installation of 250,000 square feet of turf and fencing to keep kids and equipment off the busy nearby streets.

courtesy of the Sanneh Foundation 2019 upgrades will also include the installation of a dome, seen in red, that will be used during half the year to allow for year-round use the center’s athletic fields. The dome will be open to the public.

The Conway Recreation Center, which is managed by the Sanneh Foundation, will have it’s outdoor facilities upgraded in 2019. 

Upgrades wll include new field turf, improved lighting, new fencing and a seasonal domed field. 

A community meeting about the changes was held Dec. 17 at the recreation center, located at 2090 Conway St., for the center’s management to share the planned renovations and to get feedback from the community. 


Keeping a community resource open

The Sanneh Foundation — a youth development organization created by retired soccer player and East Side-native Tony Sanneh — has managed Conway since November 2013.  

Shortly after the Great Recession, as the city grappled with budget cuts that limited recreation programming, the East Side saw a number of its recreation centers, including Conway and Eastview, threatened with closure. In an effort to prevent closures, the city began seeking out partnerships with private organizations that would be be able to keep the centers open.  

Conway and the Sanneh Foundation was one such partnership. Similarly, in 2017, Eastview Recreation Center was able to reopen to the public under the management of St. Paul Urban Tennis. 

Both groups have been making upgrades to the facilities as a part of their management. St. Paul Urban Tennis has fixed up tennis courts and made some renovations inside the Eastview center. 

The Sanneh Foundation has made similar changes to Conway, renovating the hardwood floors and wall padding in the gymnasium, as well as expanding and upgrading the kitchen and cafeteria. 

During the Dec. 17 community meeting, Conway staff said the center serves about 300 kids a week and has various programming including sports activities, tutoring and meal programs. Staffers said the center serves about 37,000 meals a year. 


A series of upgrades

The previous upgrades and those coming in 2019 are a part of what the organization calls its “Lead the Way” campaign, a four-part plan to upgrade the center and expand its youth programming. 

The renovations of the center’s outdoor facilities are a part of the campaign’s second phase. Additional phases will include more renovations to the recreation center itself and new programming.

The Lead the Way campaign is estimated to cost about $13.8 million, with the outdoor renovations alone costing about $6.5 million. The Sanneh Foundation is funding the campaign through private fundraising.

Details of the 2019 upgrades include outdoor LED lighting, which will improve electricity costs and reduce the amount of “spill lighting” that shines on neighbors. The new black fencing — which will be anywhere from 7 to 15 feet tall, depending on the area — will have windscreens to keep debris off the fields. It’s also intended to add safety, by keeping kids and recreation equipment off the nearby busy roads. 

Project Manager Brandon Griffin said the fencing will not block the facilities from the public and that gated entrances will only be locked after park hours to prevent vandalism. 

He also said that there will be no kind of advertising on the fencing, which was a concern brought up by some community members during the meeting. 

The domed structure, which will be in place six months of the year during the cold, will be open to the public as well. 

The fields will have about 250,000 square feet of turf installed, as well as improved drainage structures, all to reduce the amount of maintenance. 

Some at the meeting asked if there would be any kind of public art as a part of the project, especially on the fencing. Griffin said there currently are no plans for art, but any ideas or requests would be welcome and can be sent to

During the Dec. 17 community meeting, most neighbors, many who have kids that use programming at the center, were happy to see the recreation center continue to be upgraded. 

Some in attendance weren’t concerned with renovations, but were there to air grievances about parking issues and other disruptions. 

Tony Sanneh, namesake of the foundation managing the center, said the organization will work with Conway staff to communicate clearly what the local parking rules and restrictions are, and encourage neighbors to reach out to the organization about any other issues. 

For further questions and updates, contact Conway Recreation Center staff in person at the center Monday through Friday, noon to 9 p.m., send an email to Griffin at, or visit 


–Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at

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