Flint’s historic Atwood Stadium will gain new life – and new visitors – in 2015 thanks to a wide range of support from many stakeholders in the Flint community.
The approximately 11,000-seat stadium, which opened in 1929, has hosted many memorable events, including rallies for political figures like John F. Kennedy, concerts for legendary bands like The Who and has served as the backdrop for Flint’s long, proud athletic tradition as an Olympic Gold Medalist, a Heisman Trophy winner and dozens of other athletes who went on to successful collegiate and professional careers got their start at Atwood.
Now, thanks to community-wide support from many individuals and organizations and culminating with a $1.75 million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Atwood Stadium’s future as a viable, unique community gathering space in the heart of Flint is more secure. New turf, along with a separate gift from Diplomat Pharmacy, Inc. in support of Flint Community Schools and Powers Catholic High School, will allow varsity high school to return to Atwood in the fall.
“Two years ago, we were unsure about the future of the Stadium because of the large number of repairs and upgrades that were needed to make it viable again,” said Judge Duncan Beagle, a member of the Friends of Atwood and a longtime Flint sports historian. “We asked the community if they’d be willing to support our efforts, and the response was overwhelming. Atwood truly has a special place in the hearts of many generations of Flint and Genesee County residents, and we’re ecstatic that it’s going to continue to play an important role in the community.”
Kettering University took over ownership of the stadium from the City of Flint in 2013 and has, with the help of the Friends of Atwood, led fundraising efforts and made critical upgrades to the facility.
With the grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation and more than $300,000 in other community support, Kettering is now able to make the remaining critical improvements necessary for the stadium to reopen in time for the 2015 high school football season. Kettering and the Friends of Atwood will continue fundraising to support other long-term improvements, maintenance and upkeep.
“The recognition of Atwood as a local treasure and asset is reflected by the fact that so many organizations and individuals are coming together to support these improvements,” said William S. White, chairman and CEO of the C.S. Mott Foundation. “The social and economic returns on the community’s investment will add to quality of life in Flint and Genesee County, and help fuel the region’s ongoing revitalization.”
Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan noted that when Kettering took ownership of Atwood Stadium, it did so with a single ambition: to ensure Atwood remained a viable community venue for future generations.
“As a longtime neighbor and friend of Atwood Stadium, Kettering has witnessed the importance of the stadium to Flint over its great history,” McMahan said. “Despite the fact that we have no division sports programs, when the opportunity arose to add Atwood to our campus, we jumped at it. All along, our vision has been to do whatever it takes to help secure needed repairs and upgrades to Atwood to make it a facility of which Flint can be proud and that once again can function as a cornerstone of our community.
“It is truly exciting to be able to announce that, in 2015, Atwood will not only receive many of those improvements but that it will reopen for play after it does with one of the finest football, soccer, and lacrosse playing surfaces anywhere in Michigan and the Midwest. This has been a truly collaborative community effort. The entire community benefits from Atwood’s restoration, and the stadium’s future is bright due to the collaboration of a diverse group of individuals and organizations all committed to a single worthy cause — creating a thriving city of Flint.”
Organizations in the Flint area, including the Ruth Mott Foundation, The Whiting Foundation, Sargent’s Title Company, the Wells Fargo Foundation, Rowe Professional Services and HealthPlus have contributed to efforts to refurbish the stadium. A number of individual donors, including Kettering Board of Trustees member and Flint native Raymond Scott, Judge Duncan Beagle, William Churchill, George Skaff, Steve Landaal, John Love, Clifton Turner, Joseph Eufinger, Angelo Panoff, Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, John McGarry, Thomas Saxton, Richard Hinterman, James Gaskin and Glen Kelly. Both the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame and the Greater Flint Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame made contributions and an anonymous donor pledged $100,000 to the cause.
Diplomat’s recent gift that will cover costs for Flint Southwestern, Flint Northwestern and Powers Catholic varsity football teams – all members of the Saginaw Valley League – to play home games there this season.
“We are excited to support the return of high school football to Atwood Stadium,” said Diplomat CEO & Chairman Phil Hagerman. “Having exciting games on Friday nights during the season will add another great attraction to the many positive activities going on in the heart of Flint.”
Since taking ownership of the stadium in 2013, Kettering has continuously made repairs to masonry, restrooms and concessions near the east end zone, fixed broken lighting and signage, and made upgrades in the locker rooms. The University also has continued to make Atwood available for community events, including youth and intramural sports, Relay for Life and ice skating.
The grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation will allow for masonry and restroom repairs in the area near the west end zone, as well as replacement of the dated playing surface with a safer, more natural field-turf — something that will be truly transformational for Atwood’s capabilities, said Beagle.
Kettering has selected FieldTurf Inc., the nation’s leading provider of professional artificial playing surfaces, to install the same turf used at Ford Field in Detroit and Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor in Atwood Stadium. This new surface will permit Atwood to host professional and NCAA sports, as well as local athletic events. The Atwood field also will be striped and widened to accommodate the regulation surfaces required by other sports, such as soccer and lacrosse.
For information about making a contribution to Atwood Stadium, contact University Advancement at (810) 762-9863 or John McGarry of the Friends of Atwood at (810) 762-9735.