Leagues, city could spin off park mgmt.

Representatives of the city and the two leagues that make the most use of Keizer Little League Park appear to be moving toward establishing a separate, but collaborative foundation to manage and schedule events at the park.

For the past few months, city officials have been encouraging Keizer Little League (KLL) and McNary Youth Baseball (MYB) to find a new management model at the park because the first one is a source of rifts dating back more than a decade. Currently, the city contracts with one of the leagues to manage the park which seemingly puts the other at a disadvantage. KLL holds the current contract, but MYB has in the past.

Members of both leagues along with City Councilor Marlene Parsons and the Parks Advisory Board’s Matt Lawyer have been meeting as a subgroup to figure what a new management structure might look like and unveiled their proposal at a meeting of the Keizer Little League Park Long-Range Planning Task Force Wednesday, Feb. 27.

The group proposed establishing the Keizer Baseball and Softball Complex Foundation with a board of directors comprised of the president and vice president of each league, members of the parks advisory board, a representative of the park’s concession stand and citizen representation. The board would be responsible for scheduling and maintenance for the park while working toward leasing the property outright.

The biggest potential stumbling block could be the park’s name. Lawyer, who guided much of the discussion regarding the proposal, said renaming the park would create opportunities “to heal and allow this to move forward.”

City Manager Chris Eppley was quick to voice his approval for renaming the space, but Lawyer added that a name change should be accompanied by adding another element to the park.

“What I heard was a desire to memorialize where [the park] came from and the original vision,” Lawyer said.

While the leadership of the two youth leagues are in agreement about the new plan, not everyone in the leagues has been made aware of the proposal, and even some that have remain reticent.

“I gave a full presentation three weeks ago. It was generally well received. A couple were very concerned about working with MYB, but that’s something we can work out,” said Brad Arnsmeier, president of KLL.

“MYB’s membership knows very little about the specifics, but I think it will settle well,” said Bo Lane, vice president of MYB. “We’re a group of like-minded people. I don’t think it will be much of a problem at all.”

Under the proposed framework, the complex foundation would set an annual revenue goal and amounts over and above that goal would be split 50-50 between the complex and KLL and MYB leagues. Members of the task force expect $35,000 a year would cover maintenance and upkeep for the immediate future. If the complex made $40,000 after setting that goal, $2,500 would go to the complex and KLL and MYB would split the remaining $2,500, or $1,250 each, to put toward their individual programs.

The complex foundation board would also oversee major improvements at the park, sponsorships, concessions and enlisting outside users and tournaments. Some of the outstanding questions include: whether to keep slot fees (the rental cost of a field) in place or find an alternative like a per-player fee; how much to charge outside users for rental; and the specifics of how scheduling would occur.

While the organizations have had difficulties in the past, Lawyer said, collaborating on the complex foundation proposal seemed to mend some fences.

“There has been some discussion and concern about these two organizations working together. I have experienced nothing of that nature,” Lawyer said.

The next step the task force is advocating for is a work session that would bring together members of both organizations – and their boards of directors – for a complete presentation on what is in the works.