Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

January 2019

NFL Foundation Grants Boost Local Football Fields

By Dave Ramont

Athletic fields can be great assets to neighborhoods, offering opportunities for recreation, exercise and education, as well as opportunities for communities to come together. And now, the NFL Foundation Grassroots Program seeks to provide nonprofit, neighborhood-based organizations with financial and technical assistance to improve the quality, safety and accessibility of local football fields. The program is a partnership of the National Football League Foundation, which provides funding, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which manages the program and provides technical assistance.

All organizations applying for funds must be located within NFL target markets, serving low- to moderate-income areas within those markets. Projects must also be sponsored by nonprofit community-based organizations that have Section 501 tax-exempt status. These organizations are typically resident-supported, and the NFL Foundation believes that when residents see themselves as stakeholders in the creation and maintenance of playing fields, community assets are more likely to be preserved for long-term use.

Additionally, neighborhood-based organizations often have experience in both real estate development and community building, so they can address the capital aspects of athletic field development, as well as the program elements. Programming might include not only youth sports leagues and tournaments but also summer festivals, community celebrations, after-school events and science fairs.

There are two levels of funding available. The first is General Field Support, where applicants can request up to $50,000 for capital projects not associated with the field surface. This could include the installation or refurbishment of bleachers, lights, irrigation systems, concession stands, etc. The second level is Field Surface Grants, where matching grants of up to $250,000 will be available to applicants seeking to install new synthetic sports turf surfaces at community, middle school or high school football fields. The ability of these surfaces to withstand constant use while requiring little ongoing maintenance makes this an attractive option for communities and schools. A smaller number of matching grants of up to $100,000 will be available for communities or schools looking to resurface athletic fields utilizing natural grass/sod surfaces.

The NFL Foundation Grassroots Program will give preference to proposals that demonstrate active use of the fields; seek to upgrade existing facilities that are in poor condition or underutilized; provide for continuing maintenance and field safety; attract matching funding that exceeds the minimum required match of 1:1; involve youth football programs that are currently registered and compliant with USA Football's Heads Up program; and involve local partnerships with nonprofit community partners to promote youth sports safety and community programming on the fields. These partners could include parks and recreation departments, YMCA branches, USA Football, etc. Proposals should describe how the athletic field improvements would benefit the community, stating the projected increase in the number of people that will utilize the facility as a result of program improvements.

For more details on criteria and stipulations, as well as a list of eligible markets and communities, visit

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