Bucs Turn Parking Lot Into Football FieldsJune 6th, 2013
What once was a parking lot for a decaying Florida State League ballpark on the western edge of Clearwater is now home to two state-of-the-art youth fields, one replete with football uprights.
And a good chunk of that is thanks to the Bucs. The Bucs kicked in $100,000, about a third of the cost, and the rest came from the NFL and various sources.
Adjacent to the old Jack Russell Stadium, which for decades was the home to the Clearwater Phillies and spring home to the Philadelphia Phillies (and after partial-demolition is now home to the baseball academy “The Winning Inning” and the Clearwater High School baseball team) is now the shining new “Tampa Bay Buccaneers Field.”
On hand for the ribbon-cutting yesterday was Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer along with Josh Freeman, Donald Penn, Jeremy Zuttah, Ted Larsen and Leonard Johnson.
Johnson knows the rough Greenwood neighborhood well. He lives there. In fact, he walked home after the festivities. Johnson, who couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face during the entire program, grew up a David Rivers interception return from the new field.
“This is wonderful,” Johnson said, looking at the pristine fields. “I can come back home and know that there are other adults out there who care about the community and giving back to the community. I never had anything like this growing up.
“For the kids, I am excited for them that they can play on an NFL [condition] field.”
Greenwood will never be confused with Avila or Treasure Island. It is a rough part of town where crimes sometimes outnumber success stories, like that of Johnson’s. The Bucs’ cornerback believes the generous donation by the Glazer Family will go a long way to foster success for local kids and cut crime.
“Oh man, this will help [local youths] out tremendously,” Johnson said. “It will help keep them out of trouble and keep them in tune with football and have something for them to look forward to all year round.”
Johnson played in the Greenwood Panthers football program from age 7 before shining as a four-year starting quarterback at Largo High School. Four of Johnson’s coaches with the Greenwood Panthers were in attendance (still active in youth football) as were several civic leaders, youth football players and youth cheerleaders along with a couple of Bucs cheerleaders.
Glazer smiled nearly as much as Johnson did.
“This field will give the kids a chance to get out there, practice their football skills, practice their life lessons and maybe, we can get a Buccaneer player out of it like Leonard Johnson, which is fantastic,” Glazer said. Buccaneers’ outreach projects are “a very important part of our team and each year it gets better and better and I really do appreciate it.”