After reading the Oct. 25 editorial about the tricky business of granting access to the Civic Center fields and the championing of local taxpayers rights, I feel compelled to set the record straight on several counts. I am the organizer of the weekend girls’ softball tournaments that are apparently causing the American Legion much consternation.
Our softball organization, made up of local families, has hosted two to three tournaments annually on summer weekends in Traverse City since 2006. Many local teams with dozens of Traverse City area girls participate in our tournaments. I assume players’ families are “taxpayers” and having been a resident of Grand Traverse County for 22 years, I can assure you that I’m not a “newcomer” to the area.
Our tournaments attract dozens of teams and their families and their wallets to the Traverse City area. Last year, 93 teams participated in our three tournaments in which games are played predominantly on Saturdays and Sundays. As the tournaments have grown in popularity, I will often schedule games on Friday afternoons and evenings to accommodate the number of teams that want to play in Traverse City.
Last year, for example, we rented the Civic Center fields on portions of Saturday and Sunday for three weekends when no other organization was using them. Director Jason Jones and the Parks and Recreation staff could not have been more helpful in making our tournaments a success while maximizing revenue to the county by renting an otherwise vacant asset, something that, as a longtime Grand Traverse County taxpayer, I appreciate.
Without getting into the mundane details of tournament operations too much, I can tell you that tournament teams routinely book their summer schedules six to eight months in advance. Under these circumstances, it is impossible for Taxpayer Group A to wait until April or May when Taxpayer Group B has their schedule completed to see if any space remains for Group A to rent for their local families to host a tournament.
Here is a potential solution: When my son played and I coached in the American Legion baseball program, games were routinely played Mondays through Fridays, with some occasional Saturday contests mixed in. A quick check of the 2013 game schedules on the American Legion baseball web site reveals that the schedule is very similar to what it looked like 15 years ago. Tango, Delta and Bravo Leagues had no Saturday games in 2013. The Charlie and Alpha Leagues had limited Saturday games. All leagues were off during the Cherry Festival.
Could the American Legion leadership commit to a Monday-through-Friday schedule for the local boys to play baseball, and let local taxpayers who want to provide an opportunity for local girls and visiting teams to play softball use the fields on Saturdays and Sundays for tournaments?
American Legion families might enjoy their free weekends, and other user groups could access the publicly owned facilities too. Sounds like equal footing to me.
About the author: Jeff Brunner of Long Lake Township has coached both boys baseball and girls softball, and is founder of the softball travel organization Traverse City Waves.
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