By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted Stadium Foundation volunteers piled up some big points Friday with the announcement that Robert Morris Cadillac had donated $250,000 for naming rights to the the high school athletics field as part of the foundation’s quest to raise $1.5 million for field turf and other improvements in school district athletic facilities.
“It’s a big step in our fundraising process,” said John Kraft, head of the foundation’s efforts to raise the $1.5 million. “It’s a big donation and we really appreciate Robert Morris stepping up like that, and we believe that it can lead to other people and businesses helping.”
The 10-year agreement renames the athletics field Drive Morris Field and also gets the business name displayed prominently on a list of donors, which will be put on a wall at the field. With the Morris donation, Kraft said, the foundation’s funds stand at about $550,000, or a little more than a third of the way to go.
“It’s a great donation, but we want to make it clear we’re not there yet, we will need additional help to get this done,” he said.
For his part, Robert Morris II, who moved his business to North Olmsted from North Ridgeville about three years ago, said he’s happy to be a part of the effort.
“It feels good to do something like this in the community,” he said. “It’s a good place to do business and we’re glad to be here.”
Although Morris said he did not play sports or perform in a band at the high school field, Morris said he sees the importance of supporting those who do.
“Schools and other activities are a big part of a city,” he said. “You want to make sure they are doing well because it makes the entire city better.”
Mike Zalar, who started as the North Olmsted school superintendent in August, said the donation as well as the overall project are a big boost to the district, the city and all its residents.
“It’s a great thing to see this kind of support and interest in the district,” he said. “It speaks well of how people feel about their kids and their community.”
Noting the district has had a strong academic track record in recent years as well as many extracurricular activities, Zalar said this type of project can help sustain that kind of excellence.
“It all ties together,” he said. “When people support their schools and their programs, that helps lead to other good things in the community around them.”
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy, who was present at the halftime ceremony where the naming rights were revealed, also was pleased.
“Having a strong school district does benefit a city as a whole by aiding property values and helping show people care about their children,” he said. “It’s something people should want to support, because it’s going to benefit their children for the long term as well.”
In thanking Morris, school board Vice President Terry Groden said the donation could provide strong impetus to the project.
“I believe the Stadium Foundation project to turf the field has really been gaining momentum, but the contribution of $250,000 takes it to a whole new level,” Groden said. “And when that project is completed, it could be just the start of facility improvements throughout the district.”