High school football games at Homestead’s Harris Field are going to look, sound and feel different beginning Thursday night.

Thanks to a partnership between the Orange Bowl Committee and the city of Homestead, Orange Bowl Field at Harris Field Park has become a state-of-the-art football facility – 25 years after it served as “Tent City” to evacuees who lost their homes in Hurricane Andrew.

The $2.1 million renovations, which began last December, has been completed and features a new multi-purpose synthetic turf field, a new video scoreboard and sound system, goal posts and nets, landscaping, and renovated restrooms, locker rooms and press box. The stands, which can host 3,500 fans at capacity, have also been freshly painted.

Homestead’s football team, one of eight high school programs who call Harris Field home (South Dade, Coral Reef, Everglades Prep, Keys Gate Charter, Varela, Palmetto, and Killian do as well), will be the first to test it out when it hosts Braddock at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“It means a lot to be the first game,” Homestead coach Ahmad Ward said. “The players always asked ‘When would we get a turf field?’ after playing at numerous fields in the northern end of the county like that. Now, the players feel pride and cannot wait to play on it. By us being the first school to break it in, the players want to show that Homestead’s rebuilding process has begun on the right note.”

Harris Field will host 20 high school games total during the regular season.

A dedication for the new field featuring local leaders will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday with performances by local high school marching bands from Homestead and South Dade High. Kids’ games, bounce houses, food and drinks prior to the game are free to the public. Tickets to the Braddock-Homestead game are $5.

The Orange Bowl first unveiled its Legacy Gift initiative in 2008 in honor of the organization’s 75th anniversary and has since provided more than $12 million worth of improvements toward the beautification of four local parks: Moore Park in Miami, Joseph C. Carter Park in Fort Lauderdale and Ives Estate Park in the northern part of the Miami-Dade County.

Krop High School will play six of its games at Ives Estate Park this season.

In addition to helping the high schools, the Orange Bowl Committee has invested more than $7 million in youth sports. Harris Field is also the home of the Dick Conley Steelers, a Florida Youth Football League team within the Orange Bowl Youth Football Alliance (OBYFA). The OBYFA benefits more than 15,000 youth football players and cheerleaders representing eight football leagues across eight South Florida counties.

Organizations providing additional funding for Harris included the Miami Dolphins through the NFL’s Field Grant Program and Center State Bank.

“This one as much as any is for the high schools,” said Larry Wahl, Vice President of Communications for the Orange Bowl Committee. “We’ll continue the legacy program down the road. We’re just not sure what the next target will be.”

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