Our Stories

Field of Dreams Come True

A 20-year partnership between LISC and the NFL Foundation has built or renovated more than 350 playing fields in communities across the country. An article in Next City reports on how these collaborations in the Twin Cities, host of Super Bowl LII, have nurtured and inspired generations of young people there—including St. Paul’s first African-American mayor.

The excerpt below is from:
NFL Grants Give Local Sports Fields a Second Life
by Elizabeth Millard, Next City

Long before he became mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Melvin Carter was one of the many kids who spent countless hours on the Jimmy Lee field in the city’s Rondo neighborhood. He has fond memories of that time — of sprinting across the turf, of friendships that grew out of teams and pickup games, and of gaining the kind of education that only sports can bring. These days, some 20 years since he was a teenager booting a ball across Jimmy Lee field, he still stops by to watch his own children play there and drink in that feeling of being part of the community.

“Young people enrolled in parks programs like the one at Jimmy Lee gain some of their most important life lessons on these fields, like hard work, leadership, trust, and caring for others,” says Mayor Carter, a fourth-generation St. Paul resident who was sworn in as the city’s first African-American mayor in January. “That’s true for me and thousands of our youth, parents, and neighbors who have deep connections to places like Jimmy Lee.”

Constant use, however, has meant constant wear and tear. So in 2012, through a collaboration between the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC), and the NFL Foundation’s Grassroots Program, as well as the city of Saint Paul and a local community group, the original field where Carter played was refurbished. It sits right in the heart of Vikings country, where the Super Bowl will be held this year and where generations of young people have tended their own dreams of playing in the big leagues.

Today, the Jimmy Lee field is a highly visible, much-loved resource within its community. From the city’s main highway, drivers get a clear view kids of all ages playing football or soccer, with parents and friends cheering them on from the edges of a luxurious stretch of green.

“Having such a high-quality field increases equitable access for the city as a whole,” says Andy Rodriguez, recreation program supervisor for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “This has become a premiere location that is heavily used. It’s a huge asset to that community and has made a huge difference in what we can offer and how neighbors come together.”

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