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Improving playgrounds to stop violence

New Orleans, La. - Ray Lewis ended his long football career with a Super Bowl win on the turf and now, 8-year old Scooter Compton gets to play on it.

"The grass used to have holes in it but now the turf don't," he says.

The Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee donated the turf as part of a massive improvement project at five NORDC playgrounds.

"The various playgrounds had different elements so they might have needed scoreboards or lighting or a little bit of sod," says Rita Benson LeBlanc, Owner and Vice Chairman of the Saints & Pelicans. "This is the only one that has the synthetic turf. This is the championship field right here."

At Harrell Stadium in the Leonidas neighborhood, the basketball courts were crumbling and the field needed a lot of work.

"The grass here before we had a lot of dips in the field where a few kids have hurt their ankles or legs whereas with the artificial turf, it just brings everything to another level," says Coach Sterling Jones.

Jones spent the last 23 years volunteering as a football and baseball coach at Harrell Stadium.

He watched countless kids grow up inside the fences, knowing the dangerous pull that exists just outside.

An 18-year old AmeriCorps volunteer was shot to death just five blocks from the stadium in April.

Days later, two others were shot near an anti-crime march in memory of the teen.

"They have to have a positive outlet," says Jones. "If we don't, we lose them to the streets.

"Many of our kids come without that father figure and we like to consider ourselves that father figure."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu led Friday afternoon's grand opening ceremonies.

"I am ordaining this field a field of peace," he said. "That is what this field is. don't ever anybody bring violence or conflict onto this field."

Landrieu says investment in the city's recreation program is one way to stop the violence.

He says the lessons learned on the field turn children into champions, turning them away from a life of crime.

"We're moving in the right direction," says Landrieu. "Last week was a terrible day for us, no way to make it better than that. But it's something that's been with us for a long time and the event itself was a symptom of a much, much bigger problem that we have got to get a handle on and I think we're getting better, but we have a very long way to go."

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