NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Alumni of George Washington Carver High School gathered in New Orleans demanding answers to what happened to nearly a million dollars that was supposed to be used to build the school its own football stadium. In a series of reports entitled, Empty Field of Dreams, FOX 8 and The Athletic revealed the board spent nearly a million dollars with no field to show for it.
The leaders of the 9th Ward Field of Dreams kept FOX 8′s cameras outside of the meeting in the community center’s lobby. However, through the glass, we heard and saw heated arguments and emotional exchanges.
Those who attended the meeting and listened to the explanations of the board left with more questions than answers.
“It didn’t make no sense,” Kenneth Turner said.
“It just [doesn’t] sound right. [It] doesn’t make sense,” Gilbert Charton, a Carver graduate and coach, said.
Initially, organizers wanted to build a stadium to fit the budget and phase in additions after they raised more money. But instead, board president Alvin Jones and executive director Betty Washington pushed for a larger stadium, complaining the initial phased approach would not provide restrooms or concession stands.
But community members said they would have been fine with a stadium in phases.
“I would have been out there with a tent if I had to -- cooking nachos with a crockpot and everything else,” Coach Charton said about his plans if the stadium did not have a concession stand.
Alumni and donors that attended the meeting said they were not aware the money was gone and the project was essentially shelved until they saw the Empty Field of Dreams reports by FOX 8 and The Athletic.
“I was under the impression that it took $1.5 Million to build the thing,” one man said. “Now you’re telling me that it takes a whole lot more money to build it? Somebody should have said that.”
The nonprofit’s now-former executive director Betty Washington and current board president Alvin Jones both refused to comment to FOX 8′s Lee Zurik after the meeting had ended.
Alumni at the meeting said board leaders explained how they were promised money by the state legislature, the school board and the National Football League, but that money was never delivered.
“One of the board members admitted that no board member had construction management experience,” Yolanda White, a 1980 Carver alumna, said. “[That’s] a big problem. Anybody knows with construction, you have to have the funding there. You cannot start a project based on what somebody promised you or committed to."
The heated meeting ended with a moment of solidarity, the passionate alumni joined hand-in-hand with each other for prayer. But as those same alumni left, they still had more questions and more concerns about the one million dollars spent and the Empty Field of Dreams left behind.