(KLL Park)

At their meeting on Monday, Nov. 15, the Keizer City Council unanimously agreed to grant the management of Keizer Little League to For the Love of the Game, a nonprofit run by Mavericks League owners Jerry and Lisa Walker, plus their son, Mickey.

The contract is for 10 years, with For the Love of the Game's performance being evaluated every two years by the Keizer city manager.

Councilors Roland Herrera and Kyle Juran were absent from the meeting.

“We have some really big visions of what we want to do with the complex, improvements we want to make to not only the fields but to the area itself, and hopefully that will directly benefit baseball and softball in this community,” said Mavericks League CEO Mickey Walker.

Some of those big visions include bringing turf to the facility and making the park accessible for other sports.

“Turf is obviously a big thing that we want to have, that is something we would love to be able to accomplish. It's just a long-term plan, not a one-to-three-year process,” Walker said. “Not only could it benefit baseball and softball, we hope that we can develop it in a way to help other sports, like soccer or lacrosse,”

At the meeting two weeks ago, councilors elected to hold off on signing the contract with For the Love of the Game and requested that the nonprofit work with City Attorney Shannon Johnson to make certain amendments to the contract, which involved capital improvements.

Unless agreed otherwise in writing, the city is not responsible for the costs of improvements. However, capital improvements required as a result of state and federal disability laws shall be constructed by the city of Keizer at their own expense.

Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark, who has been a cheerleader of the nonprofit for months, expressed pleasure in For the Love of the Game managing the complex, and criticized the way the park has been run in the past.

“Over the last 10 years we have seen there have been some inconsistencies, and that has not served the players well,” Clark said. “I'm excited to bring on professional management of the facility that will allow parents to watch their kids play instead of serving nachos.”

Before the vote, multiple people criticized the contract, including former Keizer Mayor Lore Christopher, who was not in attendance but offered written public comment.

Christopher took issue with the length of the contract and the naming rights to the field and park — according to the contract, For the Love of the Game may propose the permanent naming of the park or any existing or future monuments, statues, permanent buildings, structures and fields.

“The park is a City asset. The naming rights should stay with the City Council (as with every other city park). City council should retain those rights and it should be listed in the contract,” she wrote.

“Those signs should stay there and never be changed,” added Keizerite Clint Holland, who ran concessions at Keizer Little League Park for several years.

Christopher also shared her concern about For the Love of the Game's compensation, which is labeled in the contract as “reasonable and customary.”

“The current applicant is setting up a non-profit corporation, however there are still expenses that a non-profit can claim. The park manager could make gross sales of a million dollars, but could also list their expenses as $999,000, leaving little in the non-profit that is to care of the park. The city council would have no authority on the level of expenses,” she wrote

Walker says that For the Love of the Game will be hiring one full-time employee outside of Keizer to oversee the fields and be in charge of scheduling. There will also be a number of part-time seasonal employees that will be brought on during the spring and summer, but no money will be going into the pockets of Mavericks League owners according to Walker.

“We are going to be hiring some folks to do some work that absolutely has to be done, and we are going to be relying on folks to volunteer their time,” Walker said. “We are hoping that the great spirit of Keizer volunteerism will show up again. There is only so much we can do as a nonprofit, no one at the end of the day is seeing any bottom line besides the complex improving. Any money received is going into making the fields better.”

Later in the meeting, Councilor Dan Kohler made a motion to direct staff to determine the cost for a facilities and maintenance program at Keizer Little League Park, in order to give the city a contingency plan in case the contract with For the Love of the Game doesn't go as planned — the motion was passed unanimously.

“In business I always have to have a fallback. If we don’t do our due diligence and know what we would need to do in an event that something did happen, how do we function?,” Kohler said. “I think it's important for us to have a fallback, not that we ever want to use it, but if we don’t have that information, how are we going to make that decision?”

“We are going to know what goes into that facility and what it really takes. I think it's going to be very informative to us,” Clark added.

Walker said he is looking forward to getting started on the process of park management and hopes that he can help provide great experiences for the kids of Keizer. 

“We are very excited to do the very best we can with this facility. That's really all I can promise. I can say from the bottom of my heart I'm ready to do the very best I can to help those fields and that complex run the very best that they can,” Walker said.

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]