By Jon Meoli, firstname.lastname@example.org
6:15 AM EST, November 28, 2013
Cockeysville native Spencer Schulz watched the Ravens' Super Bowl win at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in his adopted hometown of New Orleans from just a mile away.
Now, the Tulane University senior has been charged by a New Orleans nonprofit with selling pieces of Superdome turf from the Super Bowl to fellow Ravens fans.
"It is kind of coming full circle," Schulz, 21, said. "It's really nice. I see a lot of similarities between New Orleans and Baltimore. New Orleans is definitely my home away from home, and I'm happy to be able to help my new home by celebrating Baltimore."
Schulz, a Park School graduate, is interning with the New Orleans Recreation Development Foundation as part of his public service internship requirement in Tulane's A.B. Freeman School of Business.
Anne LaRock, director of the development foundation, said the group was founded in 2010 in conjunction with a public-private partnership that is overseeing the restoration of the Orleans Parish recreation system, including parks, playgrounds, facilities and other leisure programs and activities.
"There's almost a whole generation of kids who have never had the experience of playing organized sports, and since we have a 29-percent level of poverty in the city and the number of children who live in poverty is over 50 percent, public recreation is the only way they'd be able to engage with other kids and have the kinds of experience you get playing sports," LaRock said.
Mayor Mitchell Landrieu initially identified 77 projects to help rebuild the recreation system, one of which was a new field at Harrell Stadium in the low-income neighborhood of Hollygrove, LaRock said.
UBU Sports, which manufactured the turf for the Superdome, donated the turf to the development foundation, which then installed most of it at Harrell Stadium.
Now, the remaining turf is being made available for sale for between $25 and $40 per square foot to fundraise for the foundation's other projects. But LaRock said the foundation realized that to truly reach their target market for the turf, they needed someone with ties to the Super Bowl champions' hometown of Baltimore.
Enter Spencer Schulz.
"He was thrilled when he saw that internship posting and I was thrilled, too, because I had said in describing what the job was, that anyone with Baltimore connections is a plus," LaRock said. "He certainly had them."
Schulz said the internship has been a learning experience for him. In addition to marketing the turf tufts on Facebook and creating eBay listings for them, he said he wrote his first business plan and press release.
"It's a pretty huge undertaking for me, since it's a part-time internship, trying to set it up without much infrastructure," he said.
His understanding of the area's private school alumni networks also led him to marketing the turf to those groups, he said.
"Spencer's been telling all his friends this cool thing he's been doing, and having fun with it," LaRock said. "He has a lot of connections [in the Baltimore area] so it's great. A lot of people are huge fans, obviously. We don't have a sophisticated PR machine, we're just hoping that when orders come in we're able to fulfill them before the holidays."
The turf, which can be found online at http://www.ebay.com/usr/nordfoundation, is available for a donation that is 50-percent tax deductable.
All portions of the field are available, with a square foot of standard green turf for $25, white- and yellow-hash marked turf for $35, and a square foot of purple turf for $40.
Red turf is available for $25 per square foot "if someone wants to put some San Francisco red in their doghouse," LaRock said.
And because the turf is raw — not already mounted or cut — the group can accommodate custom orders to create doormats or carpets.
All proceeds will go back into the foundation, the group said.
For more information, visit http://www.nola.gov/nordc/nord-foundation/.