By: Molly M. Fleming – The Journal Record
A local nonprofit organization has captured the attention of a national group.
The Baltimore-based Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation is partnering with Oklahoma City’s Fields & Futures to help the organization complete the rest of the Oklahoma City Public Schools’ sports complexes. There are 22 more fields to complete in the district.
Fields & Futures founder Tim McLaughlin said the partnership will help the fields get more done efficiently, including buying power for six turf-covered complexes.
“Most of their vendors are part of the mission and are on board,” he said. “They’re all bought in. They’re all really efficient. We’re getting the knowledge and the (national) buying power that comes with a mission to it. It will be good for Oklahoma City, that’s for sure.”
Randy Acosta, senior director of development for the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, said this partnership is different than its other work because Fields & Futures is solely focused on the fields. He said the foundation was impressed with Fields & Futures’ relationship with the school district.
“The school board is really supportive of the Fields & Futures,” he said. “That’s a very unique relationship. Oftentimes you don’t see that kind of support.”
Cal Ripken Jr. was the keynote speaker at Fields & Futures’ annual Bowtie Ball, held in October. Acosta said after the event, Ripken put it together how the two organizations are aligned.
The foundation has spent the last 16 years using sports-themed programs to bring police officers, partners like the YMCA, and underserved youth together to learn life skills. But in the last six years, the foundation has constructed 65 multipurpose parks in 20 states, reaching more than 279,000 kids annually.
The foundation is working in Duncan and Bartlesville on projects as well, but the Fields & Futures partnership will be its largest partnership in Oklahoma.
To fund the field construction, Kansas-based Delaware Life is giving $500,000 annually for the next three years. That is a $1.5 million matching donation, so that means another $1.5 million will have to be raised in the next three years, McLaughlin said. The goal is to build six complexes in that time.
The next project is an $800,000 complex at Southeast High School, where Fields and Futures will build softball, baseball, football, and soccer fields.
“But if we raise the funds, we can get (the six complexes) built faster,” he said.
And the sooner the fields can be replaced, the better chance Oklahoma City Public Schools Director of Athletics Keith Sinor has at keeping the coaches at the schools. Since Fields & Futures started working in the district, the attrition rate has dropped almost 50 percent. Sinor said for several years, the attrition rate was about 35 percent. In 2015, it was 19 percent.
“We see how Fields and Futures has exceeded our expectations on the return we would be getting from these communities (near the fields),” McLaughlin said.