Claremont Insider: The Youth Sports Field Problem

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Youth Sports Field Problem

The youth sports groups have complained for a very long time that they lack sufficient fields for all of the kids who participate. Even if the $10 million Padua Sports Park is built tomorrow, it would only supply two soccer fields and one softball/baseball field - not nearly enough to accommodate the wants of the sports groups.

It's been our contention here at the Insider that one of the problems is that Claremont's Human Services Department has opened the sports leagues up to too many people from outside of Claremont. The lack of field space is a self-created problem, not one of too many local kids.

Okay, AYSO and Little League are primarily Claremont children. We can understand that. National Little League's rules, for example, restrict the area local teams can draw from.

But what about other groups? The Claremont Stars and the Foothill Storm are club soccer teams and utilize paid coaches, as opposed to AYSO, which relies on parents to volunteer. And they seek to attract the best players, not just from Claremont but from the wider area.

Even though the city requires 51% of a sports league's participants to be Claremont residents, there's no real audit of the records, no independent checking for compliance. Even AYSO is not above playing with the numbers. They claim 1,700 kids in 2006, up 500 from about 1,200 in 2002. Prior to the 2006 figures, the numbers had, in fact, held pretty steady up at around 1,200.

But that 1,700 is really counting kids twice. AYSO's fall/winter league has 1,250 - just about what it has always been. And their secondary spring/summer season has 450 kids for a total of 1,700. But these are the same kids!

1,250 has magically become 1,700 through the wonder of Claremont math. That kind of fudging has been the poison pill for things like state grants. When the city lies in its grant applications, they are turned down. That's why three grant applications for Padua Park totaling $3.2 million have been denied.


But let's focus on the residency issue. The Stars recently added a women's team to compete for them in the Women's Premier Soccer League. Here's a profile of one of their recent signees, Lee Klopschinski of Upland.

Here's another: Lee Turner of Ireland.

The Stars WPSL team gets to use Vista del Valle School for their training. The Stars' other teams have also been given the Vista fields, and the Storm get to use June Vail Park, taking those fields out of play for AYSO for certain days of the week.

There are also adult soccer and adult softball leagues drawing from neighboring cities for participants. Those adult leagues further reduce the available fields for local kids. Either directly or through added wear and tear on the fields, which then need to be rehabilitated, taking them out of play for a time.

As we noted last month, Claremont Fastpitch Softball was advertising for participants in Upland, which makes us think they may be reaching outside of Claremont for participants. The Fastpitch league, like AYSO, relies on volunteer parents for its leadership. So, the league's governing board should reflect the league's residency as a whole.

We took a look at the Claremont Fastpitch website's list of the phone numbers for the league's boardmembers and their phone numbers. Using Google and Zabasearch, here's what we found:

Co-President Kevin Keirns
(909) 593-****, Pomona, CA 91767

Treasurer and Website Administrator Christopher R. Olmsted
(909) 593-****, **** Glen Ivy Rd., La Verne, CA 91750

Sponsorship contact Arnold Vigoa
(909) 596-****, **** N. White Ave., La Verne, CA 91750

And these Fastpitch boardmembers had Upland and Pomona phone numbers listed on the league's website:

Co-President Tony Jimenez
(909) 931-****, Upland

Vice-President Vinnie McLachlan
(909) 593-****, Pomona

The point of all of this is to show that this hue and cry about sports fields shortages is our own fault. Arguing for more fields is fine, just don't couch in in false terms about "our kids" as if every single person using this fields is from Claremont and that we've somehow shortchanged "our kids" by not building a thousand fields. And don't use false numbers to make the arguments. These tricks are simply and purely lies.

If our sports fields are over-utilized because we've got a lot of other non-Claremont oriented sports activities going on, then we need to address those problems realistically. That doesn't mean spending $10 million on facilities like Padua Park that won't even address the problems.

If we are really supplying sports fields for area wide, regional activities, then it means we need to be working with neighboring cities to build shared facilities on a large enough scale to supply six or eight soccer fields and four or more softball/baseball fields. This shared approach has the advantage of sharing the costs of construction and maintenance. But it also requires thinking outside of our self-imposed box and working with our neighbors - talents that are in short supply in Claremont.