W.Va. youth sports officials question deal to build center

September 27, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Representatives of at least six youth sports groups in Jefferson County are concerned about a proposed $2.2 million community center for the county, saying no one asked them about what is needed for local recreation programs.

Officials with the local sports groups say they are surprised no one from the county sought their input, given the large number of youths they are serving and the complex issues they are facing.

Representatives of the youth football, basketball, soccer and cheerleading organizations say they are serving more than 3,000 youths and are struggling to offer the programs in the face of high liability insurance rates, equipment costs and dwindling field space, money and other issues.


Donnie Dunn, who represents the Charles Town/Ranson (W.Va.) Little League and Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) Youth Basketball League, said the $2.2 million community center that Jefferson County officials plan to build at Sam Michaels Park probably will only serve a small part of the population.

Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission officials say the community center was needed at Sam Michaels Park because they were running out of space for programs like gymnastics, arts and crafts and dance classes, and sports camps.

"They're probably doing 10 percent (of the population), and we're doing 60 or 70 percent," Dunn said.

Jimmy Pierson said he thinks the community center could be designed differently to accommodate a larger portion of county residents. Instead of building the center at Sam Michaels Park, county officials could consider working with Jefferson County Schools officials to build the center at the proposed new high school at the Huntfield development, said Pierson, spokesman for Jefferson County Youth Football League and Cheerleaders and the Jefferson County Umpire Association.

By building the community center at the new high school site, it could use the school's parking lot, concession facilities and restroom facilities, Pierson said. The money that could be saved from not having to build those facilities at Sam Michaels Park could be used to build a larger community center, Pierson said.

Local youth sports program representatives also are concerned about how recreation programs are managed in the county.

Dunn said any new fields his organization wants to build on county property must be paid for with money from his group. After a grace period of about six years, youth sports organizations then have to pay a county fee to use the fields, local youth sports program officials said.

"How bad is that?" Dunn said.

Youth sports officials also are faced with dwindling field space to serve growing numbers of kids. Because the organization has no other place to have its games in the Charles Town area, the Jefferson County Youth Soccer League has permission from Edge Hill Cemetery representatives to play on the cemetery's property, said league spokesman Daniel McVicar.

Officials with Charles Town Midget Basketball and the South Jefferson Parks and Recreation Council also are concerned about the community center.

The six youth sports programs intend to form an association and one of the primary duties will be to make their concerns known to county commissioners, McVicar said.

Association members also plan to question county commission candidates about how they feel about the needs of youth sports programs in the county, McVicar said.

The commissioners who decided to spend $2.2 million to build the community center - Commission President Al Hooper, Greg Corliss and Rusty Morgan - could not be reached for comment Sunday night.

"I can certainly understand where they are coming from," said County Commissioner Jane Tabb, responding to the concerns of the youth sports groups.

Tabb, who voted against spending $2.2 million for the community center, said she believes the decision to spend the money was done "rather hastily."

Although Tabb said she believes the money should be saved for creation of new county office space, she agrees the county is lacking enough sports fields.

Tabb said it is unclear whether changes to the community center can be made. She added that no money has been spent for the project.

"To me, it looks like a door may be open," Tabb said.

Bill Hoak, chairman of Jefferson County Parks and Recreation, defended his agency's support of the community center project.

Hoak said Sunday night that the county has no indoor facility for recreation programs and that space for the activities currently must be leased.

Earlier in the year, Parks and Recreation Commission Director Tim Barr said some parents have to take their children to nearby cities for gymnastics because of limited space for the programs in Jefferson County.

The community center will include a gym and bleacher seating for about 750 people.

The Herald-Mail Articles