LAKELAND, Fla. -- The city of Lakeland opened its newest park in grand fanfare Saturday morning, with Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Lewis as its guest speaker.
- Ray Lewis attends park dedication in Lakeland
- The former football player's considering opening school
- Lewis was recently inducted into Hall of Fame
The park is named after Douglas Cook, a businessman who donated the 18-acre plot of land worth $2.25 million to the city before he died.
His family owns the Lake Gibson Village Senior Living Complex across the street.
The park is now home to Lakeland’s Police Athletic League football, baseball and cheerleading programs. For ten years, the programs didn’t have a permanent home.
“Our mission is filling playgrounds, not prisons," said Tim Abram, the Lakeland Police Athletic League's Executive Director. "So whenever we’re able to keep kids off of the street and keep them in an area where we can supervise them better and watch them develop into productive citizens in our community, is always a plus.”
As part of his homecoming celebration, after just being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Lewis arrived in a Rolls Royce with a busload of people to accompany him during the celebration.
He gave a fiery message to the kids.
“Kids use your minds," Lewis said. "And dream big. If I don’t tell you nothing else in life, dream big. Don’t let what our circumstances say can’t happen. All things are possible.”
Bob Donahay, Lakeland’s Director of Parks and Recreation, unveiled a sign that will be placed in his honor on US Highway 92 and Interstate 4. It’s down the road from Kathleen High School, where Lewis was an All-American Linebacker and State Champion wrestler.
“This is just one thing that we’re starting in Polk County. I want to show kids you can do anything you put your mind to,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he’s considering ways he can give back to Lakeland.
“I’m just meeting with the Polk County School board and everything, and I think we’re going to really think about possibly doing a Ray Lewis School.
Lewis said he’d like to open a school similar to LeBron James’ I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. He said he plans to sit down with the school board and superintendent and discuss logistics.