Island Talkback: Sports fields up for highest bidder?
By Jon Pecson
The financial challenges affecting Alameda have now been brought to the attention of youth sports organizations using the many sports fields throughout the Island. In late July a nonprofit organization, comprised of over 80 percent of members living outside Alameda, made a proposal to adopt a field in Alameda and take over control and use of that field which would have excluded Alameda children. This proposal to the interim city manager essentially has opened the proverbial Pandora’s box in allowing outside entities to bid for use and control of all Alameda fields.
A meeting was hosted by the interim city manager, Ann Marie Gallant, and Recreation and Park Department director Dale Lillard was held on August 30 to discuss the desire of the City of Alameda to cut costs associated with the maintenance of parks and sports fields used by little league, golf, soccer, football, lacrosse, softball, swimming, skateboarding, cycling, water polo and any other Alameda youth sports organization. A spreadsheet of 16 Alameda sports fields was presented to the sports organizations along with the activities and costs associated with maintenance of these 16 fields. The biggest concern is that an out-of-town organization with deep pockets could bid for any field in Alameda and shut out Alameda residents from using their own fields.
In response to this latest threat to the use of Alameda fields by Alameda residents, the Alameda Sports Coalition has been formed to address the importance of youth sports in Alameda. A meeting was held on October 12 at Bayport Recreation Center to address this issue and others related to youth sports to the candidates for mayor and City Council of Alameda. The mission of the Alameda Sports Coalition is to represent all youth organizations in Alameda, deliver a coordinated approach to common problems and communicate fact based information to parents of Alameda youth especially during this critical election period where the future of Alameda is being voted on.
When 12-year-old softball player Jackie C. was asked how she would feel if she may lose the use of her girls’ practice field to a organization outside Alameda she responded, “That is just not right.”