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Jackson County Schools Receiving Grant From Carolina Panthers Through Special Program

     SYLVA – The Jackson County Public School District has been granted $200,000 by the Carolina Panthers through the National Football League Foundation Grassroots Program to install a synthetic turf football field at Smoky Mountain High School.

     The grant from the Panthers, the NFL Foundation, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is part of $2.5 million in field refurbishment awards allocated this year.

     The NFL Foundation/LISC Grassroots Program, a partnership between the NFL Foundation and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the nation’s leading community development support organization, has committed nearly $40 million to the program since 1998, supporting the creation or refurbishment of 306 fields nationwide. Fields are newly built or significantly renovated, with improvements including irrigation systems, lights, bleachers, scoreboards, goal posts and turf. Grassroots grants are issued once established funding thresholds are reached for each project.

     “The Carolina Panthers are pleased to help provide Smoky Mountain High School with critical funding in support of a new synthetic athletic field,” said Riley Fields, Carolina Panthers director of community relations. “The enthusiasm and support for this project will help ensure the new field will serve the Jackson County community for years to come.”

     Carr Hooper Stadium and Babe Howell Field, located on the campus of Smoky Mountain High School holds tremendous historical value as a focal point that represents the pride Jackson County residents have in their local athletic teams. It serves as the only football field in the district and is heavily utilized from August until May each year. Currently, the school district must limit practice opportunities and community usage of the field because the grass surface needs time for recovery and extensive maintenance.

     To address maintenance issues and enable greater field usage, Schools and Community in Jackson County will install a synthetic turf surface. The NFL/LISC Grassroots Program and Carolina Panthers Grant will provide the community with a continued source of pride for generations to come.

     “We are very pleased and grateful that the Jackson County School System was selected to receive a grant from the NFL Foundation Grassroots Program to support the conversion of the football field from natural turf at Smoky Mountain High School to a synthetic turf,” said Brian McMahan, Chairman of the Jackson County Commissioners. “This action will have a significant impact on the entire community as it will provide an all-weather field that can be used not only by the many high school sports teams, band, and other student activities but it will offer a field that is accessible for community recreational activities.  This project is a wonderful example of the partnership between the Jackson County Commissioners and the Jackson County School Board and we are most appreciative of the Carolina Panthers support for our application.”

     Dr. Michael L. Murray, superintendent of Jackson County Public Schools states,  “On behalf of the Jackson County Public Schools Board of Education, we want to thank the NFL Foundation Grassroots Program for selecting our community, one of only 17 in the nation, to support in obtaining an artificial turf field at Smoky Mountain High School.  

     “This opportunity was created because of the recognition of the phenomenal collaboration that occurs between the multiple organizations and parents within our strong mountain community. The passion and support from our local government and community during the application process confirmed that we are all part of something special here in Jackson County.  Multiple letters of support and commitment assured the NFL that we can now provide a safe equitable playing surface that allows more than 19 different teams, that include band and youth programs, to call the field and stadium their home.  This will allow us all to share the field with no down time or limitations that we have had to face for years with our current natural turf.  This will also save more than twenty-five thousand dollars a year on field maintenance costs that will continue
LISC identifies local, nonprofit, community-based agencies that have an interest in building or refurbishing football fields in schools and neighborhood parks.”

     Through the program, local agencies are provided with the necessary financing and technical assistance to improve the quality and safety of fields in their communities. The agencies oversee the construction, maintenance and programming of the fields.

     “Community football fields are more than just places to play,” said Michael Rubinger, LISC’s president and CEO. “They’re places that promote fitness, good health, community spirit and teamwork. No neighborhood is complete without one. The NFL Foundation has been a great partner in creating these essential community assets.”