Fields & Futures: Build It and They Will Achieve

Joe Duggan, Communications

October 30, 2019

Sports not only transformed Jeremie Allen’s life, they might have saved it.

He was suspended 28 times while a middle school student in Oklahoma City. After the last angry outburst ended with him throwing a desk at a fellow student, he was ready to skip another suspension by quitting school.

Then a football coach stepped in.

The coach welcomed Jeremie into a brotherhood that demonstrated responsibility and demanded accountability. Staying on the field motivated him to check and channel his anger when nothing else could.

Now at U.S. Grant High School, he plays football and baseball while maintaining a 4.1 weighted grade-point average. College, not even in the conversation a few years ago, now seems certain.

“If it wasn’t for my middle school football coaches, I don’t know where my life would currently be. Jail or death wouldn’t be out of the question,” Jeremie said, sharing his story at a public event for Fields & Futures, an innovative nonprofit that builds and maintains outdoor sports facilities for Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS).

Fields & Futures exists to help schools orchestrate better outcomes on the field and in the classroom, and Olsson is proud to be on the team.

Students at Star Spencer High School cut the ribbon on a Fields & Futures project.                                  Courtesy Fields & Futures

Fields & Futures raises the funds and assembles the engineering consultant, architect, and contractor to complete each sports facility. Deputy Director Marshall Stockdell says seamless relationships with Olsson, MA+ Architecture, Cimarron Construction, and other partners are integral to each project’s success.

In our role as consultant, we provide surveys, grading evaluations, erosion-control plans, construction documents, and some construction administration. Because Fields & Futures also has committed to fund perpetual maintenance of the facilities, our ability to deliver impeccable site planning and execution is essential to creating premier playing surfaces that will last.

“Olsson literally is setting the foundation to help us not only build fields efficiently and effectively, but in the long term, to allow us to make the most of the resources,” Marshall said.

The organization was founded in 2012 by Tim and Liz McLaughlin, who are also partners in the Oklahoma City Energy FC pro soccer team. The couple created the nonprofit to rehabilitate outdoor sports facilities at all 20 secondary schools in the district. That translates to 49 potential field, track, basketball, baseball/softball, and futsal court footprints across the 135-square-mile district.

The larger goal has always been to help students improve more than their athletic skills. Research shows sports participation boosts classroom attendance, improves grades, and increases graduation rates. The fields are really a means to help secure the futures of more of the district’s 45,000 students.

But over the decades, many school sports fields had fallen into significant disrepair. And they took student participation rates with them.

Our connection to the organization started in 2013 when Brett Lauritsen, a lead engineer who was in our Oklahoma City office at the time, met Tommy Noble, vice president of Cimarron Construction. The contractor was looking for engineers willing to help the new nonprofit get some early projects done. The nonprofit’s goals fit perfectly with Olsson’s values, so the decision was pretty much a slam dunk.

“I said, ‘We know how to design sports fields, we know utilities, we know dirt work. Let’s be a part of this team,’” Brett recalled.

Since its launch, we’ve helped Fields & Futures complete many of its 22 projects. As the organization built momentum, it attracted support from professional athletes such as baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr., former NFL All-Pro Wes Welker, and NBA star Blake Griffin.

Olsson helps Fields & Futures create high-quality facilities that last, like this ball field at Southeast High School in Oklahoma City.     

Earlier this year, Fields & Futures took on its biggest challenge yet when it committed to rehabilitating and building facilities at eight schools as part of the district’s ambitious Pathway to Greatness initiative. And we were there from the moment Fields & Futures staff led tours of each school property slated for a makeover.

When combined with additional work for the school district, we completed 13 sports facility projects over the past year. The extraordinary undertaking engaged our entire General Civil Team in Oklahoma City.

“Olsson is with us all the way through installation,” Marshall said.

The hard work is producing victories where they count most. Students are filling out team rosters as their families and friends fill the stands in formerly overlooked parts of the city. Attendance, grade points, and graduation rates also are on the rise.

At Olsson, we strive to fulfill the purpose of every project we design. Seth Barkhimer, an associate engineer who works closely with Fields & Futures, said purpose is written all over these projects.

“It’s definitely some of the most-rewarding work I’ve done,” he said. “I grew up in Oklahoma. I grew up active in high school athletics and I know what it meant to me. Fields & Futures is a very special organization.”