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With help from Miami Dolphins, Boynton unveils $4 million renovated youth football field

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With help from Miami Dolphins, Boynton unveils  million renovated youth football field


The City of Boynton Beach Recreation and Parks Department hosted a grand opening of the Ezell Hester Jr. Athletic Field after a $4 million renovation.

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BOYNTON BEACH — Longtime Boynton Beach City Commissioner Woodrow Hay has waited more than 30 years for a day like Tuesday morning.

“I’m telling you, this is a dream come true,” he said of the unveiling of the $4 million renovation of the Ezell Hester Jr. Athletic Field off Seacrest Blvd. in Boynton Beach. “We used to play football at the YMCA up on Congress Avenue, and these were dirt fields when we started playing here in the 1970s. Now look at this facility.”

Hay and Boynton Beach officials have reason to beam about their state-of-the-art multipurpose facility that has been in the works for about six years. The project was partially funded through a $250,000 grant for athletic field refurbishments through the Miami Dolphins and the NFL.

Boynton Beach was one of 16 cities nationwide to be awarded the grant. Funds from the grant were used to install synthetic sports turf on the home field of the Boynton Beach Bulldogs, a popular travel youth football and cheerleading program that started in 1994.

The rest of the money for the project was given by the city, other local nonprofits and the Boynton Beach Police Department, according to Deputy City Manager Andrew Mack, who has helped to direct the project.

Among the many renovations:

  • A new synthetic turf field that will save costs for wear and tear.
  • Creation of 75 additional parking spaces.
  • Replacement of bleachers that now seat 950 and a press box.
  • Addition of a walking trail, shade system, park benches and picnic tables.
  • New landscape and irrigation additions.
  • Upgrading the stadium lights to LED.

A new concession building is also in the works and is expected to be finished before the season opens in 60 days, Mack said.

“It’s a huge investment for youth athletics,” Mack said. “This is now one of the best facilities in the state of Florida, and youth football is a passion here. There’s no bigger rivalry than Delray Rocks against the Boynton Beach Bulldogs. You think Miami-Florida State is big? This is bigger.”

Boynton Beach City Manager Dan Dugger said the previous field was in a “dilapidated condition.” The new field will be used for countywide football, flag football, soccer and other athletic events, he said.

The city hired local company LTG Sports Turf One for the renovation. Dave Livingston was the project manager.

Hay, who has been a resident of Boynton Beach since 1969, and Police Athletic League Program Director Bill Tome were the most emotional speakers at the hourlong ceremony. Tome, a retired Boynton Beach police officer, runs the nonprofit Bill Tome Foundation to benefit kids and families with financial assistance for school clothing and supplies and athletic programs.

“It’s just so rewarding because this field is years in the making,” Tome said. “I’ve been in Boynton Beach for some 30 years and it was desperately needed. This is some of the best football in the country right here. And it starts at the youth level.”

The biggest NFL star coming out of Boynton Beach is Lamar Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy at Louisville in 2016 before becoming only the second player in NFL history unanimously named the league’s Most Valuable Player. At Boynton Beach High School, Jackson threw for 2,263 yards and 31 touchdowns along with running for 1,624 yards and 22 touchdowns in two seasons for the Tigers.

But there are many others — city officials say they’ve had at least 22 players in the NFL. including Vince Wilfork (Santaluces High School), Tre Mason (Park Vista High School) and Abraham Beauplan (Boynton Beach High School).

Miami Dolphins Vice President of Community Relations Kim Miller brought two Dolphins cheerleaders up for the pomp and circumstance of the event. She said a big reason the NFL chose Boynton Beach as a grant recipient was because of that rich tradition in youth football.

“Boynton Beach has such a great history in football,” Miller said. “So many great players have come out of this area. There was a need for a facility like this, and it is a great place to play. From a community standpoint, this is more than a field. It’s a place to be active and bring community together.”

James Coleman is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at jcoleman@pbpost.com and follow him on X (formerly known as Twitter) at @JimColeman11. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

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