Patrick Zohn saw a new synthetic turf football field Friday at Cleveland's John F. Kennedy High School just like everyone else who attended the field dedication. But the Chief Operating Officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District saw something else, too, something more impactful to the children who will play on it in years to come and the members of the surrounding community.
"To me, this is the first new classroom that Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns have built for the high school," Zohn said. "Yes, we can play football and soccer on this field but more importantly we're going to learn life lessons. Our kids are going to learn life lessons that will last throughout their lifetimes."
A new John F. Kennedy High School will be erected in the next two to three years. The new field at Roye Kidd Stadium, though, is already open for business, as John F. Kennedy and John Marshall High played the first game Friday afternoon on the new turf. A new scoreboard kept track of all the happenings in John F. Kennedy's 36-22 victory.
"I think it's a great side of the partnership and the strength of the partnership we have with Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the city," said Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, who spoke at the opening ceremony and served as the honorary coin toss captain. "These are the types of things that make our presence in Cleveland and this franchise so important to this community. We're showing how committed we are to Cleveland."
Roye Kidd Stadium is one of five CMSD sites to receive new high-quality synthetic turf, courtesy of Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns, and the first to be completed. In May, the Haslams' announced the commitment to CMSD for this impact project to support education, athletics and youth football, as well as to help unify local communities that will access the stadiums.
Friday was the official opening of Roye Kidd Field, one of five synthetic fields in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to be installed through a gift from the Cleveland Browns.
James F. Rhodes Stadium and Bump Taylor Stadium have been completed for the start of the 2016 high school football season and will be officially dedicated later this month, while John Adams Stadium and John Marshall Stadium will be renovated in 2017.
"The kids love it, obviously, but the coaches are really excited, too," said Eric Gordon, CEO of CMSD. "We have alumni here saying, 'man, why didn't we have that when we went to school here?' There's a huge enthusiasm and it's not just for Cleveland school kids. It's for the muny league programs we run here, the community events we run here. This is an enormous gift for Cleveland."
One of those excited alums Friday was Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed. The John F. Kennedy High grad gave an inspired speech at the ceremony and delivered a heartfelt thank you to the Haslams for their ongoing commitment to development, safety and growth of youth and high school football throughout Northeast Ohio with year-round programming for players, coaches, officials and parents.
"This is all about the next level, it's all about giving back," Reed said. "It's all about us working in a partnership. What we've done here today, what we've been able to achieve here today is all about a partnership.
"Now what we're saying to these young people, we've done our part, now it's time for you to do your part. When you do your part, make sure you give back because that's what the Haslams are doing today."
The Browns are dedicated to #give10 through the team's First and Ten initiative. Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's community program, established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year. Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community. All Browns fans are encouraged to join the volunteering effort by signing the First and Ten pledge on the team's website and by sharing their stories with #give10.