Saturday, July 05, 2008

Boys and Girls Club to benefit from $200,000 turf

Photo by Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff
Caption: These boys at the Lincoln Park School Boys and Girls Club struck a cool dude pose after tossing a football for the photographer. From left to right: Zach Elston, Rocky Wrazidlo, Alex Brohman, Dawson Wrazidlo, Richard Villebrun, Zach Gibby, Zyon Witherspoon, Marquise Robinson, and Dorian Dorsey.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Northland received a $200,000 grant for artificial turf at the Heritage Sport Center. “It is going to provide numerous opportunities for our club members that they don’t have a lot of exposure to right, tennis, baseball, softball, and football. Now we have a space where we will be able to do those types of activities regardless of the weather,” said Todd Johnson, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club of the Northland.

The turf will be housed in the Duluth Heritage Sports Center thanks in part to a $200,000 grant from the National Football League (NFL) Grassroots Program.

The grant, awarded by the Minnesota Vikings, the NFL Youth Football Fund and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), is part of $5.43 million in field refurbishment awards allocated this year to community groups in areas surrounding the 32 NFL markets.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Northland includes five sites in Superior/Duluth and a Bois Forte location in Tower. The two Duluth sites are both in Lincoln Park. One is housed in the Lincoln Park School which is slated to close under the Duluth Public School District’s “Red Plan;” the other site is a teen center.

Johnson said the Boys and Girls Club plans to sign a lease with the Duluth Heritage Sports Center in July so that Boys and Girls Club will be able to use the Heritage Center as a youth outreach center by the time the building, now under construction, is completed. The target date is the end of 2008.

The sports center will give youth from throughout the city the opportunity to participate in junior league teams. Local school districts will have access to the fields for practice and games. This field will be ice for six months of the year, the other six months it will be turf with the Boys and Girls Club given daily access.

This new sports center, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, is expected to serve as the cornerstone for private investment in the area.

The Duluth Heritage Sports Center has received financial support from a number of sources including the State of Minnesota, the Duluth School District, the City of Duluth, individual donors, foundations and various local businesses. Duluth LISC has been a key partner in the development of the Center.

The NFL Grassroots Program, a partnership between the league and LISC, has resulted in the construction or renovation of 170 football fields nationwide in the past decade.
In the last 10 years, the NFL Youth Football Fund has granted over $20 million to revitalize playing fields in underserved neighborhoods.

NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell, who also is a member of LISC’s national board of directors, said, “The development and refurbishment of these football fields gives youngsters across the country a safe place to play the game, and brings families and neighborhoods together.”

LISC identifies local, nonprofit, neighborhood-based agencies that have an interest in building or refurbishing football fields in schools and parks in underserved neighborhoods. The local agencies over see the construction, maintenance and programming of the fields.