Money for baseball fields

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The talk of Keizer being a “Tournament Town” continues.

But for that to work, kids have to have somewhere to play. Volunteers for Keizer Youth Sports Association and Keizer Little League have much to be proud of: They have for decades operated an all-comers baseball and softball program for every child who wants to play.

Say what you will about the KYSA-Little League split that still has hurt feelings left in its wake. The bottom line is KYSA finds itself unable to keep the park up to a high standard without the city’s help. If we are serious about becoming “Tournament Town,” some sort of steady funding stream makes sense.

Instead of lamenting the good old days, we should be proud that volunteers have kept the park up and running this long. In a city that doesn’t have a public library or many other amenities other communities provide for youth, it’s not too much to ask parents to carry the bulk of the load when it comes to youth sports. That is the bargain, after all, and KYSA’s leaders knew this when they took on the contract.

It is unfair, however, to ask them to spend their own time and money bringing in outside visitors for other businesses to profit and the city to collect more revenue via hotel-motel taxes.

Based on the way urban renewal dollars have been spent in the past – a half-million of which almost went to build a tourism center – it seems reasonable that those funds could cover improvements, but not routine maintenance, at the fields. That choice could prove politically unpopular, and perhaps practically impossible, given the city’s bond debt obligations and agreements with other taxing jurisdictions.

The funding formula for systems development charges, sometimes called impact fees, may also limit possibilities.

To us, the budget committee and city council have a few options: The general fund could pay out the cash, which may be possible this year but could be subject to cuts in the upcoming budget cycles. They could take up KYSA on their suggestion to divert parking monies from Volcanoes Stadium to maintaining and improving the ballfields. They could impose a modest surcharge on visiting teams and organizations that would be dedicating to upgrading the park.

Separately, local businesses that would benefit the most should step up sponsorships. Better fields mean more tournaments, which are likely to mean more profits. They also get the goodwill of investing in the community.

In exchange, KYSA’s leaders must be willing to extend the olive branch to those at Keizer Little League, allowing them to volunteer for credit towards field fees. Both organizations should be working towards the same goal: Giving their kids a chance to play ball at a quality facility. Whatever resentment remains, it’s time to put them to bed.

In any case, it appears the status quo is off the table.

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