Chargers get a chance at Lakeland

Published 11:30pm Friday, September 27, 2013

Local semi-professional football team the Suffolk Chargers had been struggling to find a home field in the city since last spring, but they landed an impressive one for tonight.

The Chargers will face off against the Virginia Swarm on Lakeland High School’s field after coming to an agreement with the school and the Suffolk School Board.

“It means the world to me that Dr. (Deran) Whitney, he’s giving us a chance,” Chargers owner Angela Harper said of the superintendent for Suffolk Public Schools. “I have had a hard fight.”

Last spring, the Chargers drew a crowd of 500 to 600 to their home opener at Peanut Park, forcing a move to a larger location. The cost for security for a larger event proved to be prohibitive for Harper, so the team ended up playing its home games at other locations in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.

This fall, she contacted Lakeland about the possibility of using its field, and activities director Gregory Rountree was supportive. He said the school is happy to participate any time it can help out young people in the community, particularly former Lakeland students like some players on the Chargers roster.

His primary part of the process was to be willing and confirm the field’s availability.

“They had to fit in with our schedule to make sure that we were away and the field was ready,” he said.

He provided Harper with the paperwork she needed to send to the Suffolk School Board, and she did so. The board ruled to deny the team access. After inquiring to learn why, Harper said she was told the board just had never granted access to a professional or semi-pro team before.

She decided to write an email to Whitney, explaining how she believed it was unfair to limit the local opportunities of a team composed mostly of Suffolk residents.

She said after further consideration, Whitney decided to approve the request.

Per Harper’s offer, all the proceeds from admission fees and concessions will go to Lakeland’s athletic department. The opportunity to use the field for future home games will depend on the turnout and operation of tonight’s proceedings.

Tickets will be $5 for adults and $3 for children, ages 5-12. Children 4 and under get in for free.

The Chargers had an 0-2 start to the fall season in the Atlantic Coast Football Alliance, but are coming off a 24-22 win over the Virginia Warriors. Kickoff tonight against the Swarm (1-2) is at 6 p.m.

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