Wednesday, December 28, 2011

City Springs Field: A Dream Fullfilled

Baltimore, MD - 12/28/11 - On November 29th, 2011 the Baltimore Ravens joined Living Classrooms Foundation, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, the NFL/Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC) Grassroots Program and several former Colts players for the dedication of a new football field at City Springs Park. The field will offer more than 2,000 youth every year a safe place to exercise, play team sports and receive wraparound services.

The newly renovated City Springs Football Field features a regulation-size football field that will be used for physical education activities during the school day and will provide youth with safe and supervised recreation during the critical after-school hours.

The City Springs School Drug-Free Soul Steppers and Hampstead Hill Academy's Drum Line performed at the dedication.

Baltimore Ravens players and cheerleaders hosted a Play 60 football skills clinic for 125 students immediately following the press conference. The NFL's Play 60 campaign is designed to encourage kids to be active for at least 60 minutes a day in order to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity.

"Our students are very excited about this brand new field," said City Springs Principal Rhonda Richetta.

"We have been running an intramural flag-football league for several years. This field will help take the league to the next level."

The City Springs Flag Football League's fall 2011 season was funded by a grant from the Ravens All Community Team Foundation.

Public/Private Partnership

Funding for the City Springs Football Field was initiated by an NFL/LISC Grassroots grant of $100,000 to Living Classrooms, that was supported by the Baltimore Ravens and matched with funding from Baltimore City Recreation and Parks of $153,000.

This unique public and private partnership in the form of an Adopt-a-Field Agreement has designated Living Classrooms Foundation as the operator of the field by Baltimore City Recreation and Parks. As the designated operator, Living Classrooms will provide both the maintenance of this high quality athletic field and programming focusing on health and wellness for the East Baltimore Community.

The Dream...

The dream of a City Springs football field 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 (formely 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.

Living Classrooms

With said design in hand, Living Classrooms took the lead to meet with Rec 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."

Phase Two

Now that the students at City Springs have a regulation field within walking distance, the school and BCP have turned their attention to 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 the park next to City Springs School the swing set still has no swings; the basketball courts still have only one basket; and the concrete is still broken.

As Principal Richetta gazes at park, all she sees is potential.

"With wonderful partners like Living Classrooms and the Ravens, no dream is beyond our reach."