Youth Football League wants to practice on additional school siteBy Kim Walter
Parents of children in the Woodstock-Edinburg Youth Football League are planning to speak during Thursday's school board meeting about their concerns with fees associated with field usage.
The league currently pays $1,500 to the school system per season to use Central High School's game field for four home games, and a practice field behind W. W. Robinson Elementary School.
Edinburg resident Shaun Alkire is a division coach and parent of three children in the league. Alkire said that more kids than ever are participating in the Woodstock-Edinburg league this year, so in hopes of having more space for the kids, some of them were practicing on another field by W.W. Robinson.
"This other field is almost like playing in a pasture field," Alkire said of the the field's condition.
After six weeks of using the third field for practice twice a week, Alkire said Superintendent B. Keith Rowland contacted the league and explained that another $750 fee would need to be paid to use it. Alkire said the league doesn't have sufficient funding to pay the extra fee, so all the children in the league are back to practicing on the same field.
The league charges $55 per child, and Alkire said that many parents can't afford that registration fee. The league even started a cleat exchange this season for those who couldn't afford the shoes so that their children could play.
"The economy's tough," Alkire said. "You wouldn't believe how many parents can't afford this stuff."
With 100 kids in the league, typically $5,500 is made.
"The $1,500 we pay for the two fields is a quarter of the money we make," Alkire said. "This year, we got new jerseys, so there went all our money."
Alkire said that practicing with all the youth in the league together is "chaos."
"It's a shame, because you have 100 kids willing to come out and stay active who really want to play this sport," he said. "I'm a parent and I know kids benefit from this."
Alkire said he feels that in supporting youth sports and active lifestyles in children, the school system should allow the league to use the third field.
"I get that they need to pay the maintenance workers, but it's used during recess, so it's getting mowed and taken care of whether we use it or not," he said. "Plus, I always make my kids clean up any trash before leaving a field that we use ... there's just a lot of things getting overlooked."
In commenting on the issue, Rowland said that he never required the league to pay an extra $750 fee, but instead suggested they add usage of it to a memorandum of understanding between the school board and the league. The cost per field is $750, so that was how he came up with that amount, he said.
The MOU is a two-year agreement, and Rowland said it would make sense for the league to add the third field when renewing the document.
"The MOU asks that each organization pay a rental fee for the use of school fields for games and practices," he said via email on Monday. "The Woodstock Little League has an MOU that entitles them to use two fields at a cost of $1,500. Due to the fact that they had a large number of players this year, they took it upon themselves to use another field without asking.
"Since I was aware that they had a large number, I was willing to work with them this year, as I told the league president," he said. It was then that Rowland suggested the league add the third field to the new MOU, for an additional $750. He said the president chose not to add the third field.
"At no time were they told that they would have to pay $750 this year," he said.
Rowland said the cost does go toward paying maintenance workers, as the fields are also used by gym classes and other sports teams in the area.
"They get a great deal of use, so it is imperative that we take care of them," he said.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org