The new press box above Dick Turner Field at Campbell Park in St. Petersburg – the product of a $50,000 grant awarded through the NFL Grassroots Program and the Buccaneers – was dedicated Tuesday in a festive ceremony
The brand new press box at Campbell Park in St. Petersburg seemed to glow above Richard "Dick" Turner Football Field early Tuesday evening.
It was a fitting backdrop for the ceremony taking place on the field; in fact, it was the reason for that ceremony, which drew such public figures as St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Greg White and Buccaneers mascot Captain Fear.
Mayor Baker and the Buccaneer representatives joined folk from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), James B. Sanderlin Neighborhood Family Services, Inc. and the Lil Devils Youth Football League on Tuesday to dedicate the new press box. The fabulous new facility was the result of a $50,000 grant awarded by the NFL Grassroots Program.
To celebrate the completion of the press box, St. Petersburg Parks Director Cliff Footlick, Buccaneers Director of Community Relations Miray Holmes and several elected officials spoke about the significance of projects such as this to St. Petersburg's underserved neighborhoods.
"Our city is all about providing opportunities for the youth in our community, whether it's our athletic programs, our recreation programs, our parks, our swimming pools or our schools," Baker said to the crowd. "We understand that the future of our city is tied up in the youth that are sitting there in the stands right now."
The crowd was made up largely of Lil Devils players, and the young visitors remained engaged throughout the evening's ceremony. As they responded to each speaker with claps, stomps and cheers, it was clear that the players were thrilled by the addition to their field.
"This press box area is state-of-the-art; we've never had one like this," said Lil Devils Youth Football League President Cecil Odom. "This gives our people a chance to really experience a professional setting and be able to announce the games in a professional way."
The previous press box, a make-shift hut that failed to meet building codes, had deteriorated beyond repair and was demolished this past summer. The 1,000-square-foot, two-story facility now in its place contains a roll up window, a scorers' counter and areas for officials to broadcast and videotape games. The lower story also includes a separate storage area and a concessions booth, all of which will come in handy in keeping the league vital and on its feet.
"Just this past weekend we had to put everything we had inside the new storage area," Odom said. "If we didn't have [this], then we wouldn't know where to put it."
Odom even plans to use the building for an after-school tutoring program that he hopes to start next week. From Tuesday to Friday, children will have the opportunity to meet with counselors and do their homework within the press box's walls.
"When you can do things like this that add to the sports opportunities for the kids in our community, it means more than just athletics," Baker said. "It means you're helping to develop their character at the same time."
"The kids love it, the parents love it, and as the President, I really appreciate it because it is a huge help and it was right on time," said Odom. "We've got a lot of kids out here – we average anywhere between 500-700 kids – so anytime we can get some help, we really, really appreciate it."
Though the ceremony's speakers included high ranking officials and community leaders, perhaps the loudest applause of the evening came for the Buccaneers' White, who attended the event to see firsthand the impact of the NFL Grassroots Program. As White addressed the crowd, the defensive standout highlighted the role that youth football plays in their community.
"Thank you for having me here, but it's not about me being here – it's about all of you," White said as he pointed to the crowd. "Go Lil Devils!"
The donation was one of two $50,000 grants awarded by the Buccaneers, the NFL Youth Football Fund and LISC in 2008. Community Vision, Inc. and the City of Kissimmee were also recipients of a matching grant, and they will convert the field at Chambers Park in Kissimmee to a flag football field with new irrigation and lights. The two initiatives are part of $32 million in field refurbishment awards allocated this year to community groups in areas surrounding the 32 NFL markets.
"I'm thankful for everybody that has contributed today," Mayor Baker said following the ceremony. "I'm a Bucs fan, and I'm thrilled that the Bucs are a part of it and a part of our community and helping to make a difference. It's a great thing, and it's another great day in St. Pete."