Grassroots effort aims to update school’s old athletic fields

Posted at 6:49 PM, Jun 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-20 06:07:55-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- A grassroots effort is underway to revamp the outdated athletic fields and outdoor lighting at Richmond's Thomas Jefferson High School.

The $3 million plan would expand the school's football and baseball fields and add a new field house and grandstand. It would also move the track to the front of the school and add additional parking and lighting.

"T.J. has some bleachers, but they have no lights,” said David Ballard, a former Richmond School Board chairman. "It's kind of hard to believe that a school this old has never been able to play night games."

Melissa Hughes, who lives nearby and walks her dogs at night, said the improvements would greatly benefit the neighborhood.

Ballard is also asking the community to get behind the project.

"There's a lot of information that shows that kids that are involved in sports do better academically," said Ballard. "Our focus is better academics in the school system. You need to keep kids engaged, so that they can do something."

Ballard, who also lives near the school, said he is working with business leaders and other community groups who will foot the bill for the multi-million dollar project.

"If they look out and they see what they've got to play on, and then go to Deep Run, or they go to Tucker. Any of the schools in the whole metro area, and they say, 'Geez, these guys have everything,'” said Ballard.

Organizers have also reached out to the Washington Redskins since the team will be moving their training camp to the city in a few weeks.

The RPS board will have to sign off on the plan before work can begin.