14 years later, the Carver High School football stadium project nears the goal line | Sports

The dream of building a football stadium for historic George Washington Carver High School is about to come true.

Organizers have committed $6.8 million to the project and hope to raise an additional $2.2 million by attracting a corporate or private naming rights sponsor for the multi-purpose facility’s field and/or stadium.

The 9th Ward Stadium project hopes to achieve what its predecessor, the aborted 9th Ward Field of Dreams project, failed to do 14 years ago and build a state-of-the-art facility on the Carver campus in the Desire neighborhood of the New Orleans. 9th upper quarter.

A recent influx of funding—$3.8 million in Priority 1 allocation from the state’s capital expenditures budget earlier this summer and $3 million in federal community project funds secured this spring—has helped to the project to be completed.

“This stadium is absolutely going to get built,” said Arnie Fielkow, CEO of the Jewish Federation of New Orleans, which has led the project for the past three years. “We’re on the 20-yard line, hopefully for a touchdown.”

Fielkow resurrected the plan after learning of failed efforts at the original stadium project, which was started in 2008 by former Carver teacher and athletic director Brian Bordainick. Fielkow donated $25,000 to the post-Katrina campaign, which also drew support from Drew Brees, James Carville, Sean Payton and Alyssa Milano. The wellness story received national publicity, including a mention by President Barack Obama in his 2010 speech to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the storm.

The project was ultimately derailed by internal politics and malfeasance. A three-month investigation by The Athletic and WVUE-TV in 2019 revealed that the original project was scrapped by a group of Carver alumni who wrested control from Bordainick and wasted over $1 million in donations.

In addition to its new name, the project has a new plan and a new board of organizers led by Fielkow, a former New Orleans Saints executive and New Orleans city councilman. Joining Fielkow on the board of the new 501c3 nonprofit are City Court Clerk Austin Badon; local developer Darryl Berger; Bobby Garon, executive director of the First Jewish Endowment Foundation; civil engineer Roy Glapion; Bill Hines, partner of Jones Walker; charter school principal Stacy Martin; former Saints running back Deuce McAllister; architect Mark Ripple; and Wilbert Thomas, a 1968 Carver High graduate and Desire community activist.

Fielkow and his council of unpaid volunteers have revived the plan and are three-quarters away from their goal of building a $9 million stadium, which would also be used for soccer games and track meets. The stadium would be located on a vacant parcel of land owned by Orleans Parish Public Schools adjacent to the school’s campus, just south of Interstate 10.

“It’s something that was negative when we started, and now it’s going to be positive,” said Thomas, who lives in a block adjacent to the Carver campus. “When we got started, we made a pact that we wouldn’t talk about the past. We want to talk about the future and do it. And now it’s happening. »

Carver, like most public schools in Orleans Parish, does not have its own football field. Since the school began fielding a team in the early 1960s, it has played its home games at various neutral venues around the city, some as far as 10 miles from the school’s campus on Higgins Boulevard.

Among the stadium’s proposed features – which were designed pro bono by New Orleans-based Eskew, Dumez and Ripple Architects – include a 3,000-5,000 seat grandstand with 200 VIP seats and a press box; an artificial turf pitch; an eight-lane tartan track; a 160-space parking lot; a Hall of Fame venue celebrating local athletes; and a community meeting room.

The stadium will serve as the home ground for Carver’s sports teams, but it will also be open to all public high schools and colleges, with an emphasis on schools in eastern New Orleans.

“The goal is not just to have a stadium; the goal is to have other amenities for individuals to use, whether it’s just a walking track or ‘have some classrooms,'” McAllister said. “Every public school in New Orleans will have the opportunity to use this facility.”

Organizers believe the stadium can serve as an economic engine for the Desire neighborhood, which was inundated by Katrina floodwaters and has seen a rocky recovery in the 17 years since. The hope is that it will not only spur neighborhood redevelopment, but will also serve as a source of pride for residents of the often overlooked community.

“It’s one of those win-win scenarios,” said U.S. Representative Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, who led efforts to secure federal funds for the project. “This part of the community has lacked the kind of facilities and resources that many others have enjoyed. The 9th arrondissement has never had anything like this. This project can serve as a catalyst to get more homeownership and open more businesses to make this neighborhood more vibrant. »

The organizers have worked diligently and quietly behind the scenes over the past two years to restore confidence in the project. Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Jay Dardenne, Governor John Bel Edwards’ commissioner for administration, are among those who have endorsed the plan and pledged their support, Fielkow said.

Council members presented the plan to members of the Desire community at two recent meetings in the neighborhood near Carver. Future community meetings are planned to solicit feedback on the project design and schedule.

“Everyone in this neighborhood loves it,” said Thomas, who lives a block away from the Carver campus. “They just want to see people here again. The economic impact that this is going to have in this region is going to be enormous.

If all goes well, the project will be handed over to school board officials, who will oversee bids for the construction and management of the facility. The aim is to get out of the ground by the end of the year and to open the stadium to competition no later than 2024.

“Once the stadium is built, it will serve children throughout the New Orleans area for decades,” Fielkow said. “It’s really exciting to be able to offer a heritage project to this community. This is something very special for the city of New Orleans.

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