To some, a football field is merely a 120 x 53.3- yard plot of grass. But to those who play the sport, it’s much more. It’s where kids grow up, learn valuable lessons and make lifelong friends. It’s a place the outside world can’t touch and kids can leave their worries behind and just be kids. For the Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis – Herbert Hoover location, it’s a dream come true.
For the first time in its seven year history, the St. Louis Rams’ annual community improvement project was not a playground build. Instead, the organization refurbished the local Boys & Girls Club’s football field. It was a first-of-its-kind project that had special significance to many of the Rams staff and players, and one that will leave a strong footprint for years in the community.
“I was raised on a football field,” said Les Snead, the St. Louis Rams general manager. “The people who coached football basically raised me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without a field like this and places like the Boys and Girls Club. For me, it’s relatively emotional.”
More than 100 participants traveled to the former site of Sportsman’s Park, where the St. Louis football and baseball Cardinals used to play, to re-sod the Herbert Hoover field. Rams staff members were joined by team partners Perficient and Dr Pepper employees to help complete the project.
Humming like an offense firing on all cylinders and battling 95 degree temperatures, the volunteers made quick work of the sod, before the Rams rookies joined the effort, which made the field come together even quicker. The final piece of sod was laid on the field just three hours after the first piece found its place.
“What’s always amazing about the community improvement project is you have all these different people from different departments and how fast things go,” Snead said. “This group gets after it and works together. It’s pretty cool.”
In addition to re-sodding the football field, the Rams also funded other improvements for the field, such as new fencing, new goal posts, a new scoreboard, additional landscaping and an improved press box.
“We’re really excited and we’re really appreciative,” said Dr. Flint Fowler, Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis President and CEO. “To see the Rams make this kind of investment in the community lets us know they’re here to do a job, not only to win football games, but to be a committed community partner as well.”
The Rams also held a PLAY 60 event for the kids of the Boys & Girls Club, where the children exercised for 60 minutes with Rams staff and rookies to promote a healthy lifestyle. Rookies
While reviewing this year’s community improvement applications, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis – Herbert Hoover really stood out. After the site visit and another strong impression, the Herbert Hoover location was selected for the 2015 community improvement project.
“A couple of years ago, we modified our playground application process to allow submissions for community improvement projects beyond the traditional playground build,” said Molly Higgins, St. Louis Rams vice president of corporate communications/civic affairs. “Our goal was to provide ourselves the flexibility to respond to our community’s greatest needs.
“This year’s Boys & Girls Club application was very intriguing to us because we know firsthand that football is much more than a game,” Higgins continued. “Involvement in football and sports in general teaches life skills, leadership traits and values that can serve as an important life foundation, and we know that we wanted to find a way to provide that foundation for the more than 1,500 children who use the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club field on an annual basis.”
“This would not be possible without the support of the Rams,” Fowler said. “They came in, read our application, saw the need and immediately joined in and made sure we had the resources to make sure we could make this happen.”
Higgins said the team called on long-time community partner, PHL, Inc., a local non-profit dedicated to improving football fields and athletic facilities in St. Louis, to assist with the planning and logistics of the project.
“On a new project like this, it was great to be able to lean on our friends at PHL, Inc., to provide their expertise and guidance,” Higgins said. “When we approached them regarding partnering with us on this project, Thom (Kuhn) and Charlie (Tallman) were immediately all in for the kids.”
The Rams and PHL, Inc., realize the impact of this project goes well beyond the football field itself. The new field gives the kids of the Boys & Girls Club a place for them to grow and give future generations a chance to learn the same lessons the ones did before them. It may not be a new Sportsman’s Park, but to the kids, it feels like it is.
“It’s a great feeling to know our kids are going to benefit from this contribution,” Fowler said. “I think St. Louis, as a region, can take greater pride in knowing that whether they’re on the field or off the field, the Rams are willing to support whatever it takes to make experiences and living in the St. Louis community better for young people.”