By Rick Palsgrove
Synthetic turf will be installed in Cruiser Stadium thanks to the generosity of a Groveport Madison High School graduate and former Cruiser athlete.
Le’Veon Bell, a 2010 Groveport Madison graduate and stand out multi-sport athlete at the school who is now a star running back with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, is donating $750,000 to pay for the new synthetic turf field.
Le’Veon Bell’s mother, Lisa Bell, said Le’Veon never hesitated when asked to help out the school district.
“Le’Veon is a humble person who loves to give back to the community,” said Lisa Bell. “We’re happy to help the community.”
As part of the agreement between Bell and Groveport Madison, the Groveport Madison Board of Education approved naming the athletic field “Le’Veon Bell Field at Cruiser Stadium.”
The Motz Group is expected to begin installing the synthetic turf on June 5 with completion by Aug. 8. The new turf will be dedicated at the first home Cruiser varsity football game on Aug. 25.
“This is the most generous gift Groveport Madison has ever received from one of its alumni. It will help our kids for the next 50 years,” said Superintendent Bruce Hoover. “Le’Veon and his mother, Lisa, give credit to many people at GMHS, particularly to coach Bryan Schoonover, for helping Le’Veon during his high school years. This gift speaks to the power of strong, trusting relationships between our students and staff. It also demonstrates the power and connection between our schools and our alumni – what it means to be a Cruiser.”
Athletic Director Steve Petros said the district is appreciative of Bell’s generosity.
“Le’Veon’s gift not only benefits our athletics programs, it also benefits our marching band and other youth oriented programs throughout the district. The new field allows us to host regional and state competitions and events. Our booster organizations and local businesses will enjoy a positive financial impact as well.”
Petros said having synthetic turf in Groveport Madison High School’s Cruiser Stadium will mean the stadium will be able to have “unlimited use.”
“Our spring sports can practice there if their fields are wet,” said Petros. “Our soccer and football teams will use it. We can hold marching band competitions. There’s a potential to hold so many more events and activities. It opens up so many possibilities.”
Petros said the synthetic turf will provide a “consistent surface” for the athletes leading to better performance and fewer injuries.
“It’s safer. Plus, the field will be tested annually to make sure its cushioning holds up,” said Petros.
Having a synthetic field will also reduce costs, according to Petros.
“We won’t have to pay to mow it, paint lines on it, aerate it, seed it, and water it,” said Petros. “It’s less man hours to maintain a synthetic field. It’s less worries overall and allows us to concentrate on other things.”
Deputy Superintendent John Hurd said the synthetic field has a 12 to 15 year life span, but it can be refurbished at that time for more years of extended use. He said maintaining the field merely involves running a machine across it to groom it after every 80 hours of use to fluff up the synthetic blades of grass.
Hurd said the additional use the synthetic turf will provide by enabling Cruiser Stadium to host tournaments, playoffs, and other events could help generate anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 a year for the district in parking fees, concessions, entry fees, and Ohio High School Athletic Association fees.
Hurd said new football goal posts are part of the synthetic turf package. Additionally, he said the district is also in talks with another private donor about obtaining a new scoreboard for the stadium.
Other area high schools with synthetic turf in their stadiums include Canal Winchester, Hamilton Township, and Reynoldsburg.
Schoonover said he and the Cruiser athletes are excited about getting the synthetic turf and thankful to Bell. He said Bell’s act and the new field will further instill Cruiser pride in the high school athletes.
“It shows that people from Groveport readily give back to the community,” said Schoonover. “It’s a great community. People are proud to be from Groveport and Le’Veon is proud to be an alumnus.”
Bell graduated from Groveport Madison in 2010 and played football at Michigan State University before joining the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013.
Schoonover said Bell is an athlete one sees “once in a lifetime.”
Bell won numerous honors as an athlete at Groveport Madison and dominated many of the football games he played in.
Lisa Bell and Schoonover both recalled a play that Le’Veon himself considers one of his favorite memories of his days as a Cruiser.
“It was his senior year against Worthington Kilbourne,” said Schoonover. “He took a punt return for a touchdown where he ran past all 11 Kilbourne players untouched. He was a man among boys. After he scored I asked him how he did it and he said, ‘I don’t know. I just saw it.’”
Bell will donate $75,000 per year for 10 years to Groveport Madison to pay for the synthetic field. The district is selling bonds to finance the field up front and Bell’s donations will reimburse the district fully for the cost of the field and the bond issuance.
Bell also created a non-profit organization called Bell’s Boys Initiatives, which will coordinate other events and activities designed to foster sportsmanship and leadership development for area youths.