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Panthers help break ground on new high school football field

Panthers, Jackson County Public Schools, Jackson County and students celebrate new field.

SYLVA, N.C. - The Carolina Panthers, Jackson County Public Schools and Jackson County broke ground on a synthetic football field at Smoky Mountain High School.

The Jackson County Public Schools had previously been awarded a $200,000 matching grant through the NFL Grassroots program in partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to support the project. Students from Smoky Mountain High School and a strong contingent of residents from the Sylva community participated in the event.

The school's previous grass field endured year-round stress from 19 different school and community teams. The new field will be completed in time for the upcoming fall athletic season and will provide opportunities for youth athletic organizations and community programming.

"The Carolina Panthers are pleased to assist the Jackson County community in providing new resources which will serve both Smoky Mountain High School and the broader community," said Riley Fields, Carolina Panthers director of community relations. "The new field will provide Smoky Mountain High School and other user groups with increased flexibility for its athletic programs and a safe and more durable playing surface."

Jackson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray was joined by Brian McMahan, board chair for the Jackson County Commissioners, and Ann Howell Mabry, a Smoky Mountain High School alumna whose father, Babe Howell, served Smoky Mountain High School during a storied coaching career.

"This project will have a significant impact on the entire community as it will provide an all-weather field that can be used not only by the many high school sports teams, band and other student activities, but it will offer a field that is accessible for community recreational activities," McMahan said. "This project is a wonderful example of the partnership between the Jackson County Commissioners and the Jackson County School Board, and we are most appreciative of the Carolina Panthers' support for the project."

The Smoky Mountain project will be the second field to be completed in 2016 in the Carolinas as part of the NFL Grassroots program. West Charlotte High School, which also received a $200,000 NFL Grassroots field grant, will begin play on a synthetic field in August.

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