Shovels hit dirt today for new Cody Rouge football field

What does a football field mean to a community?

In the case of Cody Rouge, a lot.

“It means we can be more dedicated,” said Charles Murray, a sophomore at Cody Detroit Institute of Technology and a free safety and linebacker on the football team. “…And it means people care about us.”

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Chris Lambert, in the white jersey, speaks surrounded by partners in Life Remodeled and the Cody High School football team.

That was evident on Friday morning, when under a blazing sun, a sizeable crowd gathered on the football field in Stein Park for a symbolic breaking of dirt.

As of today, that field looks unplayable – overgrown grass, uneven surface, goal posts that look like they could be easily toppled.

But by Sept. 29 — thanks to thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of donated dollars, including a $200,000 grant from the Skillman Foundation — the scene will be quite different. That’s the date when, for the first time in six years, Cody High will host its first home football game on its own field.

“People will come to see us,” said Dyante Murphy, a 15-year-old sophomore who plays linebacker. “People have always thought we are losers, but thanks to all of this, they will come and see what we really are, which is winners.”

On Friday, the crowd of supporters that included community stakeholders, funders, the football team and coaches, city officials and other supporters gathered to see the first shovels sink into that field to begin the whirlwind process of remaking it into something special.

Barton Malow is helping with general contracting. Levy is donating $65,000 in stone. Marathon Petroleum is trucking the stone. ProGrass is helping put in the turf at a low price. Michigan Cat has donated machinery. Other companies are assisting with excavating, surveying, drainage and design.

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Students from the Cody High School football team.

The Detroit Lions are even getting in on the fun, pitching in their goal posts.

The field project is part of Life Remodeled, a neighborhood revitalization effort that will spruce up the high school, two elementary schools and several blocks, most of it over one week in August. Renovations will include major upgrades to the school buildings as well as beautification and blight clearing in the surrounding neighborhood.

But when Chris Lambert from Life Remodeled met with the Cody High School principals last fall, each said the number one thing that could make a transformative difference in their school community would be a new football field.

Why? Because it’s more than turf and goalposts – it’s a community gathering spot. It’s a place where not just the high school, but youth sports can find a home – and they will, as Lambert says eight Detroit Police Athletic League teams will make use of it when it’s complete.

And sports have a way of bringing communities together. Not to mention that they do wonders in teaching kids needed skills like teamwork, resiliency and grit.

As football coach Calvin Norman put it, “It’s a great day to be a Cody Comet. It’s like Christmas morning to me right now. The expectations around here are always going to be higher now for our team, our school and our community.”

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