Keizer kids come first

After more than a year of meetings the Keizer Little League Park Long Range Planning Task Force presented its report to the Keizer City Council. The task force, including a lot of input from city staff, suggested the council choose one of three options for the future use of the park.

The council voted on Tuesday, Feb. 18, to approve the option of developing a a long-term lease with an outside group to operate, maintain and upkeep the little league complex. The option of the city itself taking over those same duties was passionately supported by some.

While that option has positive aspects, the possibility is remote due to the city’s financial hamstrings. The best choice is the one the council opted for this week.

As the city staff starts working on a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Qualifications (RFQ), the city council should assure that any resulting document maintains the status of Keizer kids.

Yes, youth baseball has changed since Keizer Little League Park was built in 1976. With other pursuits, fewer of today’s kids are involved in youth baseball. Playership dropped off for a time when part of Little League split off to form Keizer Youth Baseball (now McNary Youth Baseball). On any spring weekend 40 years ago, the park was teeming with excited players and dozens of volunteers, both coaching and working concessions.

It doesn’t matter if many fewer kids play baseball these days. It can’t be disputed that enough kids want to play and since we have a wonderful complex for that, we should maintain the Little League Park now and into the future.

With short terms leases switching between Keizer Little League and McNary Youth Baseball it is difficult to assure the complex will be maintained at the highest level year after year.

To that end a RFP/RFQ needs to stipulate that the needs of Keizer kids are paramount. Outside operators will concentrate on regional weekend tournaments. Keizer kids will have the complex at which to play Monday through Thursday evenings. That’s win-win situation for both Keizer kids and operators seeking large tournaments.

Having an outside operator signed to oversee the park doesn’t mean that local donations and volunteer hours will be a thing of the past. Any RFP/RFQ needs to mandate that Keizer volunteers have the same opportunity they have always had.

Signing a long-term lease will make on-going debates about the future of Keizer Little League Park go away—for awhile. We see an outside operator signing a long-term lease as a opportunity for breathing room. Let us sign a lease but it should be very specific regarding how Keizer kids will not be left out in the cold.