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City parks bask in Super Bowl glow

11th February 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Philip Stelly
Contributing Writer

At least the Super Saturday of Service went off without a hitch.

As the investigation continues into the Superdome blackout on Super Bowl Sunday, officials connected to the big game took a victory lap the day before, publically congratulating each other and thanking the citizens of New Orleans for pitching in, including volunteering to kick start improvements at five city parks and surrounding areas.

About 800 volunteers signed up for Super Saturday, which was billed as the National Football League’s “legacy project,” an effort by the NFL to give something back and leave a legacy to the community hosting the Super Bowl.

The volunteers fanned out to Kingswood Park, Pontchartrain Park, Hunter’s Field, Lyons Center and Palmer Park where they either refurbished ball fields, planted trees, assembled park benches and picnic tables, cleaned and painted facilities or helped with the installation of playground equipment.

“This was a chance to be a part of the Super Bowl,” said volunteer Tempe Zucker, who came in from Ohio for the Super Bowl festivities. “I knew if I volunteered it would be a part of something good.”

Besides contributing sweat equity at each park, volunteers also went into the surrounding areas. For the Pontchartrain Park Super Saturday, Green Light New Orleans coordinated teams of volunteers who went to pre-registered homes to replace regular light bulbs with more energy efficient bulbs.

Near Palmer Park, volunteers painted a local church as well as parts of James Johnson Elementary. Hike for KaTreena volunteers planted trees at the parks and selected sites. Volunteers from Southern University in New Orleans joined other community volunteers to clean up a parking lot used by visitors to Hunter’s Field, which is directly underneath the elevated Interstate 10 across from the Circle Food Store.

In addition, Super Saturday brought out many young people. Some came to the parks to participate in the NFL’s Play 60 program. Others visited tents where a group called Samaritan’s Feet distributed new shoes to children. At Hunter’s Field, children painted a mural under the direction of artist Richard Thomas.

“The New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee and the NFL are committed to leaving a legacy in the New Orleans community that last well beyond Super Bowl XLVII,” said Jeremy Boyce, director of community relations for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and the host committee.

Perhaps the biggest recipient of the NFL’s legacy project is Hollygrove’s Harrell Stadium, which gets the Super Bowl Game turf. Last week, workers began moving the turf from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to Harrell Stadium. A ribbon cutting is expected to take place in the next several weeks,

Erin Boyd, special projects coordinator for the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity said the volunteer activities on Super Saturday resulted from community input and close collaboration among the host committee, the NFL, the City of New Orleans, the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, non-profit organizations and corporate sponsors.

Super Saturday, she said, enhances $2 million in capital improvements already made at the five parks. The Lyons Center, for example, is getting Katrina-related repairs to its pool, gym and computer lab. Chevron Corp., one of the major sponsors of Super Saturday, has funded a new dance facility at the Uptown center.

Hunter’s Field has two new basketball courts and new playground equipment partially installed by volunteers. Pontchartrain Park’s football scoreboard has been repaired and Kingswood Park is getting solar lighting along with a picnic shelter, among other changes. “I see the potential of what we did on Super Saturday being replicated and for the community to be more involved,” Boyd said.

At the conclusion of Super Saturday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu was justifiably proud of the way plans were working out for the Super Bowl. “Today we’re on top of the world,” the mayor told the crowd at closing ceremonies at Pontchartrain Park. “Every?body has come together as a team to make the city the best it can be.”

The next day was the heart-stopping Super Bowl during which the Baltimore Ravens saw a victory over the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31.

This article was originally published in the February 11, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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