Empty Field of Dreams: Fmr. Executive Director alleges reports are ‘lies’, donors from across the country want answers

Empty Field of Dreams: Fmr. Executive Director alleges reports are ‘lies’, donors from across the country want answers

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – The former Executive Director of the 9th Ward Field of Dreams continues to refuse to answer questions from WVUE-TV and The Athletic in response to our joint investigation, Empty Field of Dreams. Betty Washington, is, however, sounding off on social media calling the reports ‘lies’ while people from across the country who donated to her cause want answers to where nearly a million dollars went with no field to show for it.

Washington, a convicted felon, earned $60,000 per year for her work with the non-profit organized to build a football stadium for the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, an area that had been heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The organization initially set out to build the field for the storied George Washington Carver High School, but years later there is no semblance of a field surrounding the school.

The now-former executive director has repeatedly refused to answer questions regarding the Empty Field of Dreams reports but responded to the investigation in a series of Facebook posts.

Washington wrote that she was going to ‘expose the lies’ and that our stories tried to “make it appear that something was done wrong.”

She added, “Notice they did not talk to any African Americans. Why is that?”

Washington continued in her Facebook posts, saying, “This was a pure and simple set up because City Park does not want a facility in the community.” She told her Facebook audience, “The board is actively working to build a stadium.”

Our stories showed how the organization’s founder Brian Bordainick raised nearly $1.5 Million and wanted to build a stadium to fit that budget and raise more funds later to add restrooms and a concession stand.

Washington wrote on social media, “The plans were (white folks) to build a 300 seat stadium with out door port-o-lets for toilets. The board said no to these plans!!!!”

M-K Engineering provided the 9th Ward Field of Dreams project with a series of diagrams, but they were never fully paid for the work.
M-K Engineering provided the 9th Ward Field of Dreams project with a series of diagrams, but they were never fully paid for the work. (Source: M-K Engineering)

Instead, Washington and the board spent nearly one million dollars – and have no stadium to show for it.

City Park in New Orleans disagrees with Washington’s thought that they do not want a stadium built at Carver.

“Stadiums exist and have existed all over this region,” City Park CEO Bob Becker said. “Our job is to make sure we keep our two stadiums in good condition so schools, teams, etc. will want to use them.”

A COMMUNITY WANTS ANSWERS

Our series showed how the money was spent and included reaction from a wide, diverse range of the community and people who donated money and time to the project.

“It’s a travesty,” Mark Ripple, a New Orleans architect who gave free work to the project, said.

“It’s very upsetting,” Dwan Quinn, a former Carver football player, said.

“Someone should be held responsible because all they’re doing is cheating the children of the 9th Ward,” Allen Woods, former athletic director for the Recovery School District, said.

Light poles sit on an abandoned parking lot near the site of what was supposed to be the 9th Ward Field of Dreams.
Light poles sit on an abandoned parking lot near the site of what was supposed to be the 9th Ward Field of Dreams. (Source: Cody Lillich/WVUE-TV)

“You got weeds and lights laying on the ground. That’s it. For a million dollars? Really?” Yolanda White, a Carver alumna who donated money to the project, said.

Following our reports, people from across the country e-mailed and called us saying they gave money to the 9th Ward Field of Dreams.

“I hope you guys get to the bottom of this, the children and community deserve better,” Anthony Cerciello, of New Jersey, said.

“We were very sad to hear that later on the money did not get applied to that project and it's basically bankrupt right now,” Mike Gill, of Franklinton, La. said.

We also heard from a church that said they donated two hundred dollars to the Field of Dreams.

Another viewer said they had “such high hopes for the field” and after seeing our reports said, “how sad.”

CARVER PRINCIPAL: ‘IT’S DISAPPOINTING.’

George Washington Carver High School, a charter school run by Collegiate Academies, has had no involvement in the 9th Ward Field of Dreams project, other than being the location where the field was supposed to have been built.

Jerel Bryant, the principal for Carver High School said the findings in our reports are disappointing because his students would have benefitted greatly from the project.

“It’s about kids, that’s where I will always steer it back to,” Bryant said. “It’s ownership. It’s pride. It’s spirit. You’re not going to find another community more spirited about their school than this one. It would be a great opportunity. We work with what we have and get better day by day.”

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