Youth baseball and softball in Keizer might look a lot different come 2021.
Members of the Keizer Little League Park Long Term Planning Task Force met Thursday, Nov. 21, for the final time, and the potential changes discussed included moving all non-tournament Keizer Little League and McNary Youth Baseball (MYB) games to weeknights while reserving weekends for tournaments organized by for-profit groups.
“It seems like we accidentally stumbled on what could be a very reasonable win-win for everyone,” said Matt Lawyer, the Keizer Parks Advisory Board representative on the task force.
While nothing will be set in stone until the city awards a new contract for KLL Park management next fall, the group generally agreed on a document that will be used to draft a request for a proposal. Until now, a single group has managed the park, but the goal of the task force is to cope with a way for Little League and MYB to share the park more equally.
The idea of bringing in a third party to run tournaments seemed to come out of nowhere during the meeting, but the two groups advocating for the possibility – West Coast Premier (WCP) Tournaments and Cherry City Baseball – recently signed a deal to bring four larger tournaments to the fields in 2020.
While the group generally agreed they were willing to go forward with an independent board to run the complex, one representative of McNary Youth Baseball, voiced several reservations.
“I’m a little bit worried that we do keep shifting things,” said MYB’s Rob Tavares. “It’s our city that needs to be the one that steps up as far as the recreational department. An organization that’s going to be based on a team of volunteers that was going to be sustainable throughout the years always seemed naive at best.”
He added that there might be fewer chances for younger players to find a path for development, alluding to a potentially steep increase in competitiveness from weeknights to weekends.
The main point of contention during the meeting was keeping Keizer kids playing in Keizer.
Shane Diarmit, representing Keizer Little League, was the most vocal.
“To have multiple people with their hands in the cookie jar all fighting for the same cookie, I don’t know how we solve that at the table just because we have a management group,” Diarmit said.
The proposal coming out of the group is to allot a certain amount of discounted playing times to each group that chooses to be a “participating organization” through volunteerism. Volunteerism in almost any form would count, but slots would be allocated based on the number of hours committed.
It would then be up to the leagues in cooperation with the park’s governing board to decide who gets what slots and settle disputes over the most desired spaces.
“It’s honestly not as simple as giving out 50 slots,” added Bo Lane, of MYB.
If a third party, for-profit does get involved, there also might be other changes to the facilities to help ensure enough operating income. Todd Walling, WCP softball coordinator, said the fields toward the back of the park could be converted for multiple uses including football, lacrosse and soccer.
“If you look at any of the new complexes, they are all multipurpose. You have to have more multiuse [fields] and that’s what’s going to change this complex – not really focusing on [youth baseball],” Walling said.
Other proposals coming out of the task force include:
• Establishing a website for: scheduling inquiries; schedules, weather-related information; promotional opportunities for sponsors; and complex rules and regulations.
• Splitting concession stand revenues between participating groups after meeting annual goals.
• Establishing the concession stand and equipment as property of the city.
• Setting forth capital project goals such as making the park ADA-compliant; resurfacing the parking lots; adding scoreboards and maintaining or replacing portion of the drainage system, backstops and field-grooming equipment.