Grants for Public School Athletic and Baseball Facilities

By Steve Wozniak

During economic downturns, public schools can often suffer the most. With smaller operating budgets, school districts are sometimes forced to cut funding to their athletic programs. But thanks to some grant programs available to schools and other non-profits, youth sports teams and their facility needs can survive and thrive when their usual funding disappears.

Baseball Tomorrow Fund

One of the largest benefactors of grants specifically for baseball programs and their facilities is the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund, sponsored cooperatively by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Union, has donated over $9 million to various programs.

In 2002, the Benoit School District in Benoit, Mississippi, received a grant from the BTF for equipment and uniforms to develop a baseball and softball program at its high school. In 2008, the BTF awarded a grant to the school district in Centreville, Michigan, for the construction of new baseball and softball fields.

The application process for the BTF takes three to six months. Applications and other information can be found online at mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/community/btf.jsp?content=grant_process, or you can correspond with the fund's trustees at MLB offices.

Baseball Tomorrow Fund 245 Park Avenue New York, NY 10167

While there is no maximum amount put on the BTF grants, MLB estimates the average grant to be about $39,000.

Charlotte Martin Foundation

This foundation focuses on youth sports in the western United States, as well as cultural and academic opportunities for underprivileged or rural schools and groups. In 2008, the foundation awarded $17,000 to the Box Elder School District in Montana for gymnasium upgrades and $8,964 to make track and field improvements at Meridian Middle School in Idaho. Those are were just two recipients of more than $1.4 million the foundation distributed in the fiscal year 2008, $483,485 of which went specifically to athletic programs. The foundation has awarded more than $15 million since its inception in 1987.

The Charlotte Martin Foundation, based in Seattle, rarely funds any projects outside the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Application information can be found online at charlottemartin.org.

NFL Grassroots Program

Like its major league baseball counterparts, the National Football League has endowed its Grassroots Program to assist with capital expenditures for the development or improvements to public football fields. For middle school or high school football fields, the Grassroots Program offers matching grants of up to $200,000 for the installation of artificial playing surfaces, or up to $100,000 for the installation or replacement of natural turf and sod fields. With its partner, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the NFL will also fund grants of up to $50,000 for peripheral improvements, such as those to bleachers, lighting or concession stands.

To apply for a Grassroots grant, school organizations must be in an NFL target market and most importantly, be willing to show that the facilities will be used generously with the surrounding community.

The program is funded by the NFL's Youth Football Fund and managed by Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Applications and more information can be obtained through the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Since 1998, the NFL, through LISC, has donated $12.5 million to develop football facilities.

NFL Grassroots Program c/o Beverly Smith, Senior Program Director Local Initiatives Support Corporation 501 7th Avenue, 7th floor New York, NY 10018 (212) 455-9881 E-mail: bsmith@lisc.org

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