LOS ANGELES - On a brisk Friday night in South Los Angeles, the high school football season began. But the Dons of Dorsey High kicked off more than their first game of the fall against Hamilton. They played their inaugural game in the newly renovated Jackie Robinson Stadium.
"This is the state of the art community that deserves a state of the art facility," said Los Angeles city councilman Herb Wesson, who represents the 10th district where the park resides.
Wesson said the city was able to put together $2 million dollar in bonds and other funds to refurbish the stadium with a new artificial turf football field surround an upgraded track.
The renovation struck a personal tone for Wesson who often frequents the park.
"In my many attempts to lose weight, I come up here and I walk, and for many years I noticed the conditions," said Wesson. "And it’s just the beginning of many improvements that are going to go on at this site."
Wesson said plans are in the works to renovate the park’s soccer field, add a synthetic skateboard park, renovate the tennis court, add new locker and bathrooms in the swimming pool area. "And Lord willing, we will redo the gymnasium before I leave office," said Wesson who was first elected to city council in 2005.
LA notables help rededicate stadium
"It’s about time," said Keyshawn Johnson, a Dorsey alumni and NFL pro-bowl receiver . "It is long overdue."
Johnson attended the game and received a Dorsey football jersey from Principal George Bartleson with his No. 19 on it. He said he the improvements will help the area as well as the school.
"You add different facilities and make this a better place for kids and the area will feel safer and we won’t lose our kids to the Valley schools," said Johnson. "They will stick around here and our schools will get stronger."
The ceremony included many young Pop-Warner football players who made a tunnel onto the field and shook hands with former Dorsey athletes in attendance, and greeted the Dons football team as they entered the field for their first game.
The stadium is named after Jackie Robinson, famous for breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. Kathy Robinson Young, a niece of the late baseball player, lives in the area and has two daughters attending Dorsey.
"It is important for the community," said Robinson Young and told a story of the children in her neighborhood being excited about the new facility.
She also said that Jackie Robinson would be proud with the improvements. "Uncle Jackie would be very pleased," she said, "to see his name on it his name on it, but importantly, as his quote says, ‘life is just as important with the impact it has on other lives.’ This is an impact his legacy is showing by the impact it has on other lives. This is an impact that his legacy is showing by this wonderful stadium. I think he would be pleased."
As the season kicked off, it’s safe to assume the players were pleased as well. By the end of the night, Dorsey had defeated Hamilton, 28-18.