CLEARWATER - A large part of what used to be the spring home of the Philadelphia Phillies officially became a new playground for local youths on Wednesday. Dubbed Tampa Bay Buccaneers Field, the new multisport facility sits on the site of what used to be Jack Russell Stadium and is largely the byproduct of a $100,000 grant donated by the Bucs through the NFL's Grassroots Program. "Tampa Bay youths need the necessary resources to learn and grow in a safe environment," Bucs Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer said prior to the field's dedication. "We are excited to open Tampa Bay Buccaneers Field for the youth of Clearwater and hope it will inspire our youngest generation to live more happy, healthy lifestyles." The nonprofit organization Clearwater For Youth, Inc. helped develop the new athletics complex, which includes a football field that will become the new home of the Greenwood Panthers youth football team and cheerleading program.
"Everybody in the community can benefit from what the Bucs have done here," said Bucs cornerback Leonard Johnson, who grew up in the Greenwood area and played youth football for the Panthers. "If I had everything that the kids here in this community have now I would probably be a better player. I'm sure the kids are excited about it.'' The NFL Grassroots Program, a partnership between the NFL Youth Football Fund and Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the nation's leading community development support corporation, has resulted in the construction or renovation of football fields nationwide over the past 15 years. Fields are newly built or significantly renovated, with improvements such as irrigation systems, lights, bleachers, scoreboards, goal posts and turf. Grassroots grants are issued once established funding thresholds are reached for each project. "Our focus at LISC is on building sustainable communities: good places to live, work, do business and raise families," said Beverly Smith, senior program director for the organization's Youth Development and Recreation department. "It is a pleasure to work with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFL Foundation to bring safe recreation spaces to areas of need."