When Harvey Feldman read about a truck driver forced to take off nearly a day of work in order to watch his son’s football game played at 3:30 p.m., his blood boiled.
The young man played for Southwest High School in Minneapolis, which since opening its doors in 1940 has never had permanent outdoor lighting for its athletic field. Feldman, a 1961 graduate, decided to try to change that.
The Minneapolis businessman met with school officials and offered to buy permanent lights “so that the games were played when people could actually watch them.”
His first offer was $50,000, he said. Then it became $100,000. Then $200,000. Finally it hit $300,000, and now it’s a matching grant to encourage other alumni and friends to not just bring lights to the place, but build new concession stands, restrooms and more.
“I’ve never done any philanthropy before,” said Feldman, who worked in the bar and restaurant business for years. “In business it’s always: How much does it cost? How much will I make?”
“With this, it’s how much [money] will it take? And how many people will it affect? This will affect thousands of people for decades.”
The last time the field was lit was 2010, when the then-president of the Southwest Alumni Foundation president Jodi Wishart pulled together funds to rent some generator-powered lights for one game. The school estimates that 3,000 students parents and alumni packed the place.
Fundraising for the latest efforts has just started. A billboard announcing the campaign was posted at a busy intersection near the school, said Christa Anders, president of the Southwest Alumni Foundation. A fundraiser was held last weekend. And bricks for the stadium, engraved with the donor name or a message, are being sold for $100.
If all goes as planned, the lights will be shining during all of next fall’s football games. Said Feldman: “We’re going to bring this field up to the 21st century.”
For more information, go to www.southwestfoundation.org.