Bucs help Mulberry High kick off football season with grant for new field

High school football made its triumphant return and for the Mulberry High School Panthers the Friday night lights shined a little brighter.

The team scored big with a $250,000 grant to help offset the cost of the new synthetic turf field at the school’s stadium. The grant was awarded by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers through the NFL Foundation Grassroots program. 

School leaders said the new field is more than a physical upgrade.

"It’s just brought so much excitement into the community, into the school," Mulberry High Athletic Director Heath Hunt said. "There’s so much pride. You can feel it in the students, the parents, coaches. It just kind of revolutionizes and brightens up the whole place."

Darrell Bailey is a Mulberry High graduate. It’s a full circle moment to see his son that plays football now enjoy some of the things he wished he had when he attended.

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"To see where the school as a whole came from to now, it’s a different culture. It’s a different, different school, different look. It almost feels surreal," Bailey said.

The Bucs street team attended Friday’s game and helped with a ribbon cutting for the field,

"Our youth are the foundation of our community, and we are dedicated to strengthening the student experience throughout Tampa Bay," said Tara Battiato, vice president of Community Impact for the Bucs. "The Buccaneers strive to inspire the next generation on and off the field by providing resources to enhance student education, health, and overall wellness."

The installation of an artificial turf field allows Mulberry’s stadium to be used for wider variety of high school and youth sports. It also allows the stadium to be utilized more effectively throughout the year, especially in the rainy season. The total cost of the turf installation was approximately $880,000.

Another benefit of the project is that the school’s natural grass practice field is no longer necessary and has been converted into a livestock grazing area for the agriculture program.