N.O. high school football team practices on field without lights

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NEW ORLEANS, La. -- A Ninth Ward high school football team continues to face challenges when it comes to training for game days.

G.W. Carver Collegiate Academy athletes are forced to practice on a field without lights, and now school officials say they've reached out to city officials for help—but no help has come.

"When you don't have a whole lot of prep time and game preparation time due to lights, it's real tough," said assistant football coach Gilbert Chartin.

In this empty grass lot with only two field goals, Carver High School's football team practices after school. Like the modular post-Katrina classrooms these athletes learn in, this field is all they've got. When it rains, practice is cancelled, and when it gets dark, it's time to go home.

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This week, a mobile light was brought to the field to help light up a small portion of the field once the sun sets. But the darkness makes it a challenge for this team to practice and daylight saving time will make the situation worse.

"Trying to get kids motivated and pumped and enthused about playing when they come out, they practice with them for 30-45 minutes and then it's dark. You can't see. The kids are scrambling around, because they aren't even prepared for a game," said Chartin.

School officials have tried busing athletes to other parks to practice where there are lights. Ironically, a former NORD-C operated park sits vacant with broken lights—about a stone's throw away from Carver High School's practice field.

Chartin says the team even tried reaching out to city-owned Joe Brown Park, but school officials say they were told it would cost about $1500 a month to practice there.

"The expenses were too high. They were trying to charge us to use the field by the hour," said Chartin.

The added expense is something the public school says it simply can't afford.

"It's really frustrating for me that I can't shower them with everything that they want and need to operate as a team to have the practices as late and as long as they want to," said Carver High School principal Ben Davis.

A new campus complete with an athletic project called the Field of Dreams is slated to be built in the Ninth Ward neighborhood in about two years. That will be a decade after Katrina.

Until then, this team is forced to make do with what it's got. When the sun goes down, that means one small spotlight on this no-frills practice field.

"In the meantime, until the school is built and the field is built, this is all we've got," said Chartin.

Carver High School's new campus and football stadium is expected to be built in 2016.

Eyewitness News reached out to the City for more information about school being charged to use city parks for practice. Spokesperson Garnesha Crawford says the city offers fee waivers for use of city-owned facilities to non-profit and charitable organizations on a case-by-case basis. Crawford says no one from the school reached out to the head of NORD-C regarding practicing at Joe Brown Park.