A dream that has been seven years in-the-making will be fulfilled this fall with the grand opening of the City Spring Community Athletic Complex.
The dream began in 2007 when a group of City Springs students presented Principal Rhonda Richetta with a petition at the school’s daily morning assembly. The petition urged her to repair the run-down field, playground and basketball courts adjacent to the school.
We really want to play football. We will not hit any cars. We will come in on time. We will not come in after 8:00 and ask for breakfast. We will also consider safety first. We will also not disrespect any adults that tell us to come in. We will also have our shirts tucked in...
The complex outside has many things wrong with it. It is outlined with a very uneven grass, it has broken glass on the rocky concrete, a broken gate, a swing set without swings, a basketball court with only one goal and it is very trashy.
This needs to be fixed because many children hurt themselves on the complex...we can have a football field, basketball court, a swing set and a gate to keep intruders out and to keep our fellow peers safe. This will benefit our school because our children will be more safe and will be able to stay healthy.
In response to this request, Principal Richetta and Baltimore Curriculum Project Executive Vice President Larry Schugam assembled an energetic planning team, which included Kevin Atkinson (BRE Construction), Michael Carter (BCPS Parent Engagement Office), Talib Horne (Living Classrooms Foundation), Blaine Lipski (BCPS Department of Facilities), Erin McVay (Legislative Aide to City Councilman Jim Kraft), Alison Perkins-Cohen (formerly of the Baltimore Curriculum Project), David Pennington (Colliers Pinkard), Lucy Price (formerly of Colliers Pinkard), and Kinji Scott (Citizens for Washington Hill).
The team met regularly to flesh out the vision for a sports complex, discuss logistics, and develop a fundraising plan. BCP secured Community Investment Tax Credits and in October 2008 the Little Italy Bocce Rollers Association hosted a Bocce Tournament to raise funds for the project.
After determining that the sports complex could not easily accommodate a regulation-size football field, the team developed a master plan to build a regulation-size field in nearby City Springs Park and a “feeder” field for elementary-age football in the original location; complete with a track, basketball courts, and playground.
“After picking up the schematics for City Springs Park from the City Planning Department and determining that a regulation-size field would fit; I developed an albeit amateur design for a football field in City Springs Park,” said Larry Schugam.
With this design in hand, Living Classrooms took the lead to meet with Recreation and Parks and apply for a LISC grant to develop the regulation-size field in City Springs Park. The rest is history.
“We are incredibly grateful to Living Classrooms, the Ravens, Rec and Parks, and LISC for developing this beautiful field just a block from our school,” said Rhonda Richetta.
“It is amazing what can happen when schools like City Springs and nonprofits like the Baltimore Curriculum Project and Living Classrooms work together.”
After City Springs Field opened in 2011, the school and BCP turned their attention to developing the dilapidated park next to the school.
“We hope that this investment in City Springs Park and the attention it has drawn to this part of East Baltimore will spark greater interest among local businesses and foundations in developing our original vision for the City Spring Sports Complex,” said Muriel Berkeley in 2011.
In the park next to City Springs School the swing set still had no swings; the basketball courts still had only one basket; and the concrete was still broken. As Principal Richetta gazed at the park, all she saw was potential.
“With wonderful partners like Living Classrooms and the Ravens, no dream is beyond our reach.”
A Stroke of Luck/Fate?
On December 28, 2011 Larry Schugam sent out a press release describing the unfulfilled vision of a City Springs Community Athletic Complex.
It was a slow news day and Liz Bowie at The Baltimore Sun picked up the story. She interviewed Schugam and Principal Richetta and published an article that set off a miraculous chain of events.
A week after the Sun published the story, Maryland State Senator Nathaniel McFadden called Principal Richetta and told her that he had a $50,000 donation for the athletic complex from an anonymous donor. He just needed to know who to make the check out to.
Senator McFadden credited long-time community activist Irona Pope with motivating him to support the project.
“Ms. Pope worked tirelessly to empower the families of East Baltimore,” said Senator McFadden.
“Before she passed in 2009, she told me to take care of City Springs School. When I read Liz Bowie’s article about City Springs in The Sun a few weeks ago, her words came back to me.”
Ms. Pope worked for Baltimore City Public Schools for 36 years - 34 as a parent liaison. She was one of six parents who found the money and lobbied to build City Springs EMS. Her many accomplishments included helping 44 people move out of Perkins Homes Public Housing and into their own homes; working with residents to found a food co-op; and running a weekly peer mediation group for City Springs students.
City Schools Supports Project
Inspired by the unexpected donation, Principal Richetta and BCP redoubled their efforts to make the athletic complex a reality.
At the January 2012 Baltimore City School Board meeting Principal Richetta, BCP Founder Muriel Berkeley, and BCP Director of Academic Affairs Jon McGill announced the news of the $50,000 donation and the plans to build the athletic complex.
Former CEO Andres Alonso responded that the school and BCP should not have to complete the project by themselves and committed support from City Schools.
Principal Richetta and BCP assembled a new planning team with Anirban Basu, Michael Beatty, Muriel Berkeley, Laura Doherty, Joe Ehrmann, Senator Bill Ferguson, Andy Frankel, Sarah Landon, Blaine Lipski, Jon Manekin, Senator Nathaniel McFadden, Jon McGill, Heather Mitchell, and Michael Ricketts.
Blaine Lipski spearheaded the efforts around design and construction.
“We couldn’t have done this without Blaine and the support of City Schools,” said Principal Richetta.
City Springs hired fundraising consultant Vince Connelly to conduct a capital campaign feasibility study. After identifying potential donors, the team set to work raising money.
“Our collective efforts have brought a much needed resource to the City Springs community, which will promote better health and increase the sense of community for surrounding residents,” said BCP President Laura Doherty.
Legg Mason Supports Project
On March 28, 2013 Legg Mason hosted a fundraiser at the Legg Mason Tower in Harbor East to support the athletic complex.
Featured speakers included U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Coach for America Founder Joe Ehrmann, Legg Mason CEO Joe Sullivan, and City Springs students Ronald Wingate and Breyana Wade. WMAR-TV sports anchor Keith Mills served as MC.
Attendees also enjoyed a performance by the City Springs Steppers and the premier of a video about the City Springs Community Athletic Complex.
The video, which was produced by Principal Richetta, Andrew DeVos, and Sonya Hughes, can be viewed at
Legg Mason provided $5,000 in underwriting for the event and an additional $10,000 grant to support the athletic complex. Auburn Bell, Joe Sullivan, Jen Byers, Kristin Kosmides, Kelly Spilman, Mark Fetting. and Georgie Smith were integral to making this event possible.
Legg Mason has been a faithful partner with BCP for over eight years. Last school year they provided a $30,000 grant for the BCP schools and sponsored student trips to the BSO, the Hippodrome, and Junior Achievement’s BizTown.
State and NFL Grants for Project
August 2013 was a great month for the project. The NFL Foundation Grassroots Program awarded BCP a $200,000 field grant and the Maryland General Assembly awarded BCP a $55,000 grant.
Senator Bill Ferguson, Delegate Luke Clippinger, Delegate Peter A. Hammen, and Delegate Brian K. McHale sponsored the State grant.
The Baltimore Ravens supported the grant from the NFL Foundation Grassroots Program, a partnership between the National Football League Foundation, which provides funding for the Program, and LISC, which provides technical assistance and manages the Program.
Special thanks to Ray Herman, Development Research Associate at Johns Hopkins University, for volunteering to help write the NFL grant application.
The Day is Almost Here!
The grand opening of the City Springs Athletic Complex will take place on September 15th at 11:00am. Special guests will include Ravens President Dick Cass, Poe, and a variety of local officials.
We would like to thank everyone who supported the project:
Andres Alonso, Kevin Atkinson, Baltimore Ravens, Anirban Basu, Beatty Development Group, Michael Beatty, Auburn Bell, Stephanie Beran, Muriel Berkeley, Giovanna Blatterman, Liz Bowie, Jennifer Byers, Glenn Campbell and Ms. Melissa Dowling, Michael Carter, Dick Cass, Congressional Bank, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Heather Darney, Andrew DeVos, Chris Doherty, Laura Doherty, Tisha Edwards, Barney Ehrmann, Joe Ehrmann, Matthew Facchine, Senator Bill Ferguson, Mark Fetting, Kwame Flaherty, Andy Frank, Ryan Galloway, Sharon Bailey and Jay Gede, Josie Giorgilli, Michelle Gordon, John Gress, Sharone Henderson, George and Betsy Hess, Richard and Margaret Conn Himelfarb, Stephen J. Homza, Talib Horne, Sonya Hughes, Nadine Jackson, Kristin Kosmides, Councilman Jim Kraft, Kevin and Nancy Lanagan, Sarah Landon, Joe and Megan LaRocque, Legg Mason, Blaine Lipski, LISC, Little Italy Bocce Rollers Association of Baltimore, Al Maddox Jr., Jon Manekin, Larry Matlack, Rachel Y. Mazyck, Senator Nathaniel McFadden, Erin McVay, Jon McGill, Thomas C. Merchant, Keith Mills, Heather Mitchell, Nationwide Professional Services, NFL Foundation, Michael and Cristina Niccolini, Dave Pennington, Anne Perkins, Alison Perkins-Cohen, H. Canfield Pitts, Brian Pope, Irona Pope, Lucy Price, Principal Rhonda L. Richetta, Michael Ricketts, Santoni’s, Larry Schugam, Kinji Scott, Beverly Smith, Kelly Spilman, Starbucks, Jeanette Stewart, Joseph A. and Suzanne E. Sullivan, T. R. Klein & Company, Lindsay Thompson, Time Printers, Gary Tuggle, Geoffrey Ultsch, United Way of Central Maryland, Tom Valente, Venable Foundation, The Verve Partnership, Thiru Vignarajah, Breyana Wade, and Ronald Windgate.
A dream fulfilled...
I cannot stop smiling when I look at our beautiful athletic complex, especially when it has kids playing on it,” said Principal Richetta.
“It is worth far more than every minute of time and every dollar that was spent to make it happen. Our kids are ecstatic! They deserve a place like this. The purple turf exemplifies their specialness, and for the City Springs’ community, purple is not a color it’s an attitude. As of late, my attitude is one of extreme gratitude for all the people who came together to make this dream a reality. I hope those who contributed in any way are aware of how much joy they have brought to a community, and the difference it will make in so many lives.”