Along with the athletes and coaches, one local sports enthusiast will join the Mount Airy Sports Hall of Fame this weekend.
The Granite City Award is given out annually to an individual who has contributed to sports in a meaningful — just not as a player, coach or administrator.
Mike Bowman has spent decades helping city sports programs.
“My motivation?” said Bowman. “It’s all about the kids.”
Mike Bowman might have been captain of his Mount Airy basketball team in 1969, but it is for his contributions throughout his adult life that he is being inducted this Sunday at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.
“Mike’s involvement with the development of kids in the city and county began with his service of 18 years on the board of Reeves Community Center,” wrote Al Peavy in the nomination form.
“He was one of only two board members to serve two terms as president,” said Peavy. “During this time, he co-chaired the fundraising and spearheaded the building of an indoor pool facility.”
In 1988, Bowman joined the Mount Airy Youth Foundation and later became director of an organization that raises funds and provides assistance to programs for children in all sports and ages.
“Mike spent the first few years on the finance committee, which helped to raise a million and a half dollars through 2013,” said Peavy.
During Bowman’s tenure, the Youth Foundation worked to negotiate contracts and oversee construction projects such as renovation of the baseball field and the addition of the concession stand/restrooms; renovation of the old football fieldhouse for use by the girls’ teams; and creation of a softball field and lighting.
Bowman said the foundation helped build a new fieldhouse at Wallace Shelton Stadium. Girls playing soccer or running track didn’t have their own locker room at the stadium, so the old building was renovated for their use.
The girls deserved their own fieldhouse, he reasoned.
Then came the softball field six or seven years ago, he recalled.
Bowman said he is starting his 26th year in the foundation. He has been very pleased with all that has been accomplished, including a new hardwood floor in the gym and the commons area just outside the gym.
Still, the change of which he is most proud was throwing out admission fees for students.
A decade ago, the MAYF allowed the high school to become the first in the entire state to give free passes to school children.
Doesn’t matter if the child goes to Jones or the middle school or the high school, he or she gets in free, he said. The pass is good for any Granite Bear sport.
The Youth Foundation has done many neat things over the years, he said, but this means the most to him.
There were people who opposed the idea back then, he noted. They were worried that the loss of revenue would mean the school wouldn’t have enough funds to buy needed equipment.
Letting kids in for free brought a great deal more traffic to the school, he pointed out. Since the kids didn’t have to pay to get in, they didn’t mind spending a few bucks on drinks and snacks, so concession sales boomed.
That made up for a lot of the lost revenue, but more importantly, it gave the teams more fans to cheer them on, he said.
The free admission also has allowed more children to grow up following Bear sports and wanting to be a part of that themselves one day.
The foundation still is able to provide $25,000 to $30,000 a year to the school, he added.
When the city Parks and Recreation Department began the Sports Hall of Fame a dozen years ago, Bowman was a charter member of the committee.
He said it was an honor to introduce inductee Johnny Yokely because he grew up watching Johnny win a state championship for the Bears. He also had the honor of announcing some past Granite City Award winners like Flip Rees and Gary York.
One day his son, Lee, could join him in the Hall.
Lee was a sophomore when Derrick Slate and Ahad Athar were seniors, so he had a couple of years playing alongside those two state champions. Then after those leaders graduated, Lee stepped up and won a state title himself in 1998 with doubles partner D.J. Conrad.
Bowman said it would be a special honor to have his lifelong friend David Beal introduce him at the induction ceremony.
The event begins at 3 p.m. in the Andy Griffith Playhouse.