A new group is set to make the Ninth Ward football stadium a reality

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — After Hurricane Katrina, donations poured in to build a soccer field next to Carver High School in the Ninth Ward. The promise was to build a dream field, where children from surrounding schools could compete. However, previous investigations by FOX 8 revealed that funding for this stadium had been exhausted, leaving only an overgrown field.

Today, three years after our first reports, a group is on the verge of finally making the dream a reality. They share an update on their progress with FOX 8 and Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune.

After: empty field of dreams

The group is led by former New Orleans council member Arnie Fielkow. It also includes neighborhood leaders like Wilbert Thomas and former Running Back Saints Deuce McAllister.

Wilbert Thomas graduated from Carver High School and now lives within walking distance of campus and the site of the new stadium. Thomas says the Ninth Ward has been neglected since Katrina, with little government investment, until now.

“So it’s great for this community to have a stadium like it will be for kids. And that’s our future,” Thomas said.

The group landed $6.8 million to build a new state-of-the-art stadium. That includes $3.8 million in state money with the help of La. Sen. Joe Bouie, Jr. and $3 million in federal dollars with the help of Congressman Troy Carter. State money was allocated through the capital expenditure program, while federal money was allocated to a community projects fund.

The goal is to create a venue that will eventually host Carver football games, track meets, other extracurricular activities and community gatherings.

“Well, we build a community house in many ways. I mean, I hope it could be an economic catalyst for the Upper Ninth Ward. I hope it will bring people here. It’s definitely going to provide recreational opportunities for kids in all of our public schools for, you know, sports, like football and soccer and track and field and stuff,” Fielkow said.

He also hopes the stadium will include community meeting rooms and a Hall of Fame, showcasing New Orleans student-athletes.

After Katrina, plans for the Ninth Ward Field of Dreams gained national exposure and $1 million in donations. But earlier investigations by FOX 8 and Jeff Duncan in 2019 revealed that the group had spent all the money.

The apparent mismanagement of funds has outraged some former students. But the new committee is working to get things back on track.

“Every public school in New Orleans will have the opportunity to use this facility. So that was one of the things we were really excited about. Just so we can go to this community, spend taxpayer dollars in this community and hopefully revitalize the area,” McAllister said.

Congressman Troy Carter says he hopes the stadium will help revitalize the Ninth Ward.

“So when we’re talking about really leveling things up and creating opportunities for neighborhoods to be equal, and giving people pride in themselves, and using that as a catalyst to maybe get more home ownership, to open more businesses, to make this area more vibrant. It’s one of those win-win scenarios,” Carter said.

Fielkow and the committee are now focusing on private fundraising. They are hoping for an additional $2.2 million to build the stadium they envision. Fundraising for the project has begun. Fielkow’s hope is to secure a donation that would include naming rights and begin construction this year. He says there is a plan to get community input on the project.

“We will absolutely build this new stadium. We still have a bit of work to do, but we’re far enough along right now that I’m very confident this project will come to fruition,” Fielkow said.

“When we got started, we made a pact that we won’t talk about the past. We want to talk about the future and do it. Now it’s happening,” Thomas said.

The hope is that the construction can help heal the community, giving children a sign of hope and breathing new life into a vacant lot; to erase the $1 million in funding that was spent and erase the empty promises, and to finally make this field of dreams a reality.

See a spelling or grammatical error in our story? Click here to report it. Please include the title.

Copyright 2022 WVUE. All rights reserved.

About the author