After playing almost all of its games on the road in recent years, Dunbar's football team will finally get a chance to protect its own house.
Under Armour announced Thursday that it will fund the construction of a new football field at the Baltimore City school, which has developed into a state powerhouse despite having to play most of its "home" games at Poly.
"I don't have words [to describe my excitement]," first-year Dunbar principal Kristina Kyles said. "It still hasn't hit me how excited I'll be to tell our kids."
Kyles said the school was among five in Baltimore that the Locust Point-based apparel company was considering to award with such renovations. Under Armour made the announcement in a ceremony at Pier 6, which featured its CEO and founder Kevin Plank and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
Construction is expected to begin as early as next week, with the project planned to be complete in time for the season.
Part of the proposal from Under Armour includes refined computer labs, which Kyles said "made me cry." While she said school officials still need to work out some details with Under Armour, the company told her the football field "will be one of the best facilities in the state."
The Poets already have one of the best football programs in the state. This past fall they won their eighth state championship with a 32-11 win over Perryville in the Class 1A final.
"This basically puts us in that next phase where what we're trying to do is become a national powerhouse," coach Lawrence Smith said.
The new field, to be built on the same plot of land where the current field was only deemed suitable to host the annual Homecoming game, will feature lights, Smith said.
It matches the vision Kyles said she had when she first arrived in Baltimore from Marblehead, Mass., thinking that a program as storied as Dunbar's should have "one of those big Texas football fields with Friday night lights."
"Our students, they make mountains out of mole hills, both in the classroom and on the field," Kyles said. "They are the most beautiful part of Dunbar, and they deserve to play in a more safe and more advanced field."