Why this mom is asking Walmart to rebuild her kids' football field
Last spring when a Walmart Express opened in Luther, Oklahoma, a rural town of about 1,200 about 30 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, residents could purchase organic milk, fresh produce, and they had easy access to a pharmacy. But having the store open in Luther came with a sacrifice: Walmart wanted to build on the location of the town's little league football field, and local officials agreed.
The field was ripped up and the Walmart Express opened its doors in May. Eight months later came Walmart's sudden announcement that it's closing 154 locations in the United States by the end of January—including all 102 Walmart Express stores. Folks in Luther will soon be left without a field or a place to shop. Outraged residents are rallying behind a local mom's petition that demands that Walmart rebuild the field it destroyed and donate it back to the community.
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"Walmart should do the right thing and rebuild the field and donate it to Luther Youth Football. It was a slap in the face to all these kids to lose their field and source of revenue only to have the store left vacant after less than a year!" wrote Luther resident Julie Moore on the Change.org petition she launched on Sunday.
After the city sold the land the Luther Lions little league team played on to Walmart, the team began renting the field of Luther High School. "They also lost the revenue from the concession stand sales on game days. These funds were a large part of how the teams were kept equipped," wrote Moore on her petition.
On Tuesday Moore shared her frustration about the situation with local news station KFOR. "It's like adding insult to injury," said Moore. "We lost our field, but now it feels like we lost it for no reason." Walmart plans to sell or lease the land, the station reported. TakePart reached out to Walmart for comment on the petition and did not receive a response.
About 300 people have signed the petition, and several area residents are venting their anger over the situation in the comments section. "My child plays football for Luther and I think it's garbage that they took these fields away with no other option for these kids," wrote a woman named Kandice Hicks. "Support our future, these kids, give them something to empower and encourage and keep them out of trouble, give them their fields back," she added.
"Luther is a growing town that needed that store, so the field was sacrificed. Our town supported this new store. Walmart clearly doesn't care for small town USA!" commented another resident, Heather Newsom.
Mayor Lea Ann Jackson explained to local news station KWTV that elected officials in Luther "did take some heat" when they sold the field, but they "thought in the end, this will be for the greater good. The greater good is a little hard to see now."
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The store closings, which are the result of a corporate restructuring at Walmart, will impact more than football. "Based on the receipts today, it would've increased our tax revenues by 30 to 40 percent," said Jackson, money which would have gone to improve Luther's infrastructure. Approximately 30 residents of Luther will lose their jobs at the soon-to-be-closed Walmart Express in Luther.
Nationwide, 10,000 Walmart employees are unsure what will happen to them. The company said in its statement about the closings that "95 percent of the closed stores in the U.S. are within 10 miles on average of another Walmart, and the hope is that these associates will be placed in nearby locations." In locations where that's not possible, Walmart said it will provide up to 60 days of pay, as well as résumé and interview skills training to eligible training.
Moore told KFOR that the retailer needs to "Make things right," for the kids of Luther. "They work hard, and they love football."
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