Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Zephyrs rebuild, help kids' club do same

Club involved in Magical Builders' project to renovate Boys & Girls Club
March 15, 2006
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there was one thing the New Orleans Zephyrs wanted to make sure of one thing: that they find a way to play the 2006 season at home.

"The Zephyrs sent out a press release less than two weeks after the storm where [owner] Don Beaver said we would be back in New Orleans," Zephyrs GM Mike Schline said. "As far as committing to the city, I can't think of a better example I've seen post-Katrina than the effort of Don Beaver."

That effort led to a long process in getting Zephyr Field renovated in time for Opening Day. Now, with the April 6 opener just around the corner, the excitement around the club and in the city is noticeably on the rise.

"Our organization is taking the stance that we consider April 6, 2006 as big a day in Zephyrs history as there's ever been," Schline said. "We compare it to April 11, 1997 when the stadium first opened.

"That's how proud we are of this comeback effort. We are offering with a paid ticket for an adult, a child can get in for free. We're doing it as a 'Welcome home, thanks for staying in New Orleans' special. We want to pack the place. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a real positive night. We consider Opening Day to be a red-letter day for the city."

The Zephyrs have been there for the city every step of the way, from immediately after Katrina when the parking lot of Zephyr Field was used as a staging area to Beaver's commitment to stay and now to its continued involvement in the community and the rebuilding process.

In conjunction with Opening Day, the Frank Foundation's Magical Builders ( organization will be coming to New Orleans to renovate the West Bank Boys & Girls Club. While not demolished by the post-Katrina floods most saw on TV, the club was greatly damaged by the hurricane. Many of New Orleans' citizens who were forced to evacuate relocated to this area, so the Club will be providing summer programs for a very large number of kids who would otherwise have no place to go.

"That's the one thing we have to keep on reminding people," said Christy Frank, co-founder of the Frank Foundation with her husband, Jon. "Even though this club wasn't completely [demolished], it was greatly damaged. We have to get in there and not gut it, but we're going to re-do the entire bathrooms, their kitchen, their computer labs. We're getting help from FEMA to re-do their roof and gym floor. This is very important for the kids to have something to go to this summer."

The Boys & Girls Club, needless to say, can't wait to get the ball rolling and start extending the services kids deserve in the area. Bobby Smith, the president and CPO of the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Louisiana, has stopped by the closed club frequently and was saddened to watch busloads of kids from school, who used to be dropped off there for after-school programs, drive by looking at the club longingly. Now, thanks to the efforts of Magical Builders, the Zephyrs and many others, Smith sees a bright future ahead.

"What this means is there's going to be over 250 kids in that neighborhood that at one time belonged to that club who will be able to come back home," Smith said. "I call it their second home and, for some, it's their first home. It'll help return some sense of normalcy. We're extremely appreciative. It provides a needed service in the community."

The Zephyrs were more than willing to extend their reach to the West Bank region. According to Frank, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals has been astounding in their aid to get things going on this project. "The Zephyrs have had open arms to us the entire journey," Frank said. "They've welcomed us and said, 'Our home is your home. Tell us what you need and we're here to help out.' They really want this project to be a full success for everybody. We couldn't ask for a more incredible partner than the Zephyrs.

"We're really excited to get down there and work with them, and celebrate their Opening Day and their season on April 6."

Work will be ongoing through the days leading up to the opener, with a plan to have a big opening ceremony on the morning of April 6. The Zephyrs are eager to participate in this renovation project, not only to continue to rebuild the city, but to show there is still much work to be done and that baseball can play a large part in that effort.

"We've wanted to do everything we could to get involved and help rebuild this city," Schline said. "This is just another example of being able to do that and we're real excited about that.

"This city has come a long way since August 29-30, September 1, but anybody who's stepped foot in this city in the last six months knows it's still a long way from where it needs to be. We feel strongly that baseball has always been a stabilizing force in this country. I think the fact that we're going to have a baseball season in New Orleans and that the team is coming back is going to go a long way in the recovery effort."

With the recent exception of the coverage due to Mardi Gras, post-Katrina New Orleans has slipped off the front pages and the national newscasts. This project gives everyone involved, and those who are looking for a way to continue to help, a chance to directly contribute to the city's long-term recovery. Magical Builders will soon have a "gift registry" up on their site, allowing people to make direct donations in terms of materials and goods to this project.

People are also encouraged to do more than open their checkbooks. While there has been an effort made to rely on people outside of New Orleans for obvious reasons, people in the city are already stepping up to help out. The Pyramid Construction Company in New Orleans, a family business operated by three generations, has basically told Frank to tell them when and where to be and they'll provide as much support on the construction end that they can.

"We're spreading the word out to people, saying if you want to come out and help us, we have a place for you to stay, we have a place for you to come down to volunteer," she said. "We're accepting materials of all kinds. So far, we've gotten a lot of help, a lot of volunteers, a lot of materials donated. We're looking for more."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for