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In the last three years, available funds for SPS has decreased a total of $15 million, according to Dr. Tom Prater, School Board President. Because of the lack of taxpayer dollars, the district, along with nonprofit organizations like the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools, reached out into the community, asking local, successful businesses to donate to the city’s schools.
“Well we can’t be competitive as a city, as a school district or as a school if we don’t have top notch facilities, be it academic or athletic. Our academic facilities, we’re doing pretty well, we’re using tax dollars for those, but there aren’t any tax dollars left over for the athletic facilities. So this is where the private money has stepped in and put us on a level playing field to compete with the surrounding school districts in terms of quality of facilities.”
District leaders like Prater organized the “Healthy Place to Play” initiative. This project, which is approximately $2.5 million dollars total, is a plan to renovate four area high school football fields: Glendale, Parkview, Hillcrest and Kickapoo. Not only were leaders able to raise the goal amount, contributions from area sponsors like Hyvee, Price Cutter and Mercy Hospital actually exceeded the required amount. The total investment came out to around $3.5 million.
“This healthy place to play is sort of a step further in the public-private partnerships. We’ve got businesses that are really stepping up with a big chuck of money to have a lasting impact, not just a one-year funding of a grant, or a one-time donation, but they’re paying this out over ten years. So what they’re doing is giving us some permanent bricks-and-mortar type projects that we haven’t done in the past.”
Other area businesses contributing include Wingstop, Great Southern Bank, Bass Pro, Conco and Penmac.
Mark Fisher, Director of Athletics and Activities for SPS, says this project will have a high impact on the students.
“We have 24,000 students in Springfield Public Schools. The turf expectancy life is ten to thirteen years. So potentially, every child in the Springfield Public Schools today will be impacted by this turf field. Whether that be through athletics, the band, physical education classes or community events during the summer time.”
Prater says he isn’t surprised at all that the community responded in such a generous way to this project.
“We’ve got a lot of people that are proud to live in Springfield, to live in the Ozarks, and they realize that it’s not just where they live, it’s where their business is, how they make their livelihood, where their kids and grandkids grow up. I wasn’t at all surprised we could raise this kind of money.”
Because of the generous donations made from these businesses, Glendale High School will adopt the new name Price Cutter field coming this fall, while the football field at Parkview will be deemed Hyvee field.
The new fields are scheduled to be done by the opening game of this fall’s high school football season.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.