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For Haslams, plan to refurbish 5 fields 'one of the most exciting things' since coming to Cleveland

Dee and Jimmy Haslam today announced a commitment to provide five Cleveland Metropolitan School District fields with synthetic turf during the next 2 years.

A conversation between Browns owner Dee Haslam and Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon about the difference athletics can make on school attendance kicked off an initiative that will benefit area students for decades and beyond.

Just months after donating the funds for new fields in their native Knoxville, Tennessee, Dee and Jimmy Haslam announced Monday their plans to refurbish five CMSD fields with high-quality synthetic turf during the next two years.

Two fields – Roye Kidd Field and James F. Rhodes Field – will be completed for the start of the 2016 high school football season, while John Adams Field and John Marshall Field will be renovated in 2017. The timeline for Bump Taylor Field, located at Patrick Henry School, is being finalized.

"We took several months to study that and these were the five fields that needed that and in some cases they don't even have a field," Dee Haslam said. "We feel really good about where we are and it's one of the most exciting things we've done since we've gotten to Cleveland."

Hundreds of student-athletes from Cleveland's numerous high schools wore their jerseys and attended Monday's ceremony, emceed by Browns play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan and stationed in the middle of the field at FirstEnergy Stadium. The names of the five fields were displayed on the ribbon scoreboards, and the renderings for each field's redesign were flashed on the west end zone scoreboard.

Chasity Nguyen, a 10th grade soccer player from Lincoln-West High School, and Demerius Goodwin, an 11th grade football player who also participates in track at Glenville High School, delivered testimonies explaining the positive impact sports have had on their studies and future life goals. A number of Browns alums, including NFL Director of Youth and High School Football Roman Oben, were also in attendance.

"Education is the key to our success," Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson said. "If we can educate our children and provide an avenue for them to be successful in life, it will address many of the evils of our society. Football, sports, is part of that. It helps us to educate the entire child and give that child the sense of being a part of a team, being leaders, being contributors to something."

The Senate League fields, available to all CMSD schools, will be lined to accommodate multiple sports to offer more students opportunities to benefit from the upgraded playing surfaces. Through the project, the Cleveland Muny League, CMSD physical education classes and local community members will now receive additional access to the fields, given many time limitations related to grass field maintenance have been eliminated with the implementation of synthetic turf.

This isn't the first time the Haslams and Browns have worked with the City of Cleveland to breathe new life into a neglected football field. In September 2015, the Browns and city celebrated the rededication of Dwayne Browder Field after it received significant renovations through the shared efforts of the Cleveland Browns and the NFL Foundation Grassroots Program, the City of Cleveland and Burten Bell Carr Community Development Corporation.

"One of the things Dee and I first noticed when we came to Cleveland and northeastern Ohio, everyone talked about where they played high school football," Jimmy Haslam said. "The passion for football, particularly high school football, is impressive."

This also isn't the first initiative connecting the Browns and CMSD since the Haslams took over as the team's owners. Through the Cleveland Browns Foundation, the Browns recently teamed up with CMSD to boost attendance for schools to win in school and life through the "Get 2 School. You Can Make It!" campaign, which focuses on creating strategies and removing barriers related to students' personal attendance.

This latest collaboration came during a conversation between Gordon and Dee Haslam shortly after the family announced a plan to modernize football fields throughout Knox County in Knoxville. Some in the Tennessee area wondered why there wasn't more of a focus on academics, and Gordon felt strongly that a donation like that more than fit the bill.

"If you brought those fields here, I would have stood next to you and told you students have higher grades, less absenteeism, fewer discipline referrals, a stronger internal locus of control, self-management and better odds of aspiring to and completing college education than those who do not get to participate in athletics and extracurricular programs," Gordon recalled. "Unbeknownst to me, I was making a pitch for the Haslams of why this was the right gift for Cleveland."

The Cleveland Browns are committed to assisting in the development, safety and growth of youth and high school football throughout Northeast Ohio with year-round programming for players, coaches, officials and parents. Through camps, clinics and other initiatives, the Browns' goal is to promote healthy, social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of youth by enhancing opportunities for youth football participation and education. For more information, visit

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.

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