Field of broken dreams

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The $510,000 repair and maintenance wish list that was presented to the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board earlier this month has heads being scratched all over town.

“How can that be?” asked many people.  How can it be that so many things at Keizer Little League Park seem to have fallen into disrepair?

In 2007, a group split from Keizer Little League to form Keizer Youth Sports Association (KYSA) due to disagreements about tourney play, among other issues. After receiving proposals for operation of the fields the Keizer City Council awarded the contract to KYSA about four years ago.

Among the items in the city’s request for proposals were requirements that the winner of the contract develop a grounds maintenance schedule to be carried out by the operator; promptly advise the city of any problems not addressable by the operator so the city could address them; and generate sufficient revenue to offset all costs incurred.

If these items, among many others, were in the contract when KYSA took over operation of the park, why is the laundry list of needed repairs and maintenance so long? There is plenty of responsibility to go around. The city should have taken a more substantial role in oversight of the park; KYSA should have assured the infrastructure at Keizer Little League Park was being properly maintained.

Now, four years later, the park is in need of half a million dollars for repairs and upgrades. The proposal, prepared by Rich Duncan Construction, is an estimate for materials and labor.

The main issue is that no group has that kind of money for improvements and repairs. The list will first have to be prioritized —need to do versus like to do projects. Then KYSA should put together a reasonable plan for utilizing volunteers and the community to provide some of the labor. It wouldn’t take a professional to scrape and repaint.

How many of these projects are completed will come down to Keizer Youth Sports Association’s will and dedication to do what it agreed to do in the original contract with the city. The KYSA board, its players and its parents should be the first people to be recruited to volunteer time, expertise and material to put the shine back on Little League Park.

The city needs to put in place an oversight procedure to assure that the contracted operators of the ballfields are fulfilling their contract. For years the city didn’t need to worry about the fields because Keizer Little League maintained the park. Keizer Little League flourished with the involvement of civic leaders and youth baseball boosters, most of whom had children of their own in the program. Thousands of volunteer hours were used under their leadership to mow fields, make repairs, and run the concession stand.

It is time for Keizer Youth Sports Association to emulate that model. It is not too late to methodically work through the list of projects, but they must get their own people involved. Historically, operating the ballfields wasn’t just about baseball, it was also about keeping the park the gem of Little League fields in Oregon.

Besides McNary High School, youth baseball at Little League Park was something the whole community could rally around.  This is the time for KYSA to rally Keizerites to come to the aid of our own field of dreams.

—LAZ

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