Clintonville Youth Baseball League moving out of city

Two sides strike out on agreement over fees
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By Grace Kirchner Leader Correspondent

Unable to come to an agreement over user fees, the Clintonville Youth Baseball League and the city of Clintonville will part ways.

In a letter to the city, the Clintonville Youth Baseball League, or CYL, stated that its pony and Babe Ruth players ages 13-15 will continue to play baseball at Bucholtz Park this summer, as in years past. Those players will also pay the 2019 park and recreation fees of $20 for city residents and $32.50 for non-residents.

However, the league’s younger players, those in T-ball through age 12, will be taking their games out of Clintonville to Bear Creek and Embarrass this summer. Next year, all league games will be played outside the city.

“We will be playing in Embarrass, Marion and Bear Creek,” said Chris Schley, the league’s vice president and treasurer, in a phone interview.

The heart of the conflict is how much the league should pay to use city parks. Mayor Richard Beggs said the city has been working toward a compromise with the league for eight months, and he was surprised by their decision to leave. “We are very disappointed that an agreement could not be reached,” Beggs said in a statement at a recent meeting of the Clintonville Common Council. “We are sorry to see the CYL go and wish them the best.”

According to Schley, Clintonville park and recreation fees went up 63 percent in August 2017. Since then, CYL board members have been working to reduce or eliminate these fees, aiming to hold true to their mission statement of offering a safe, affordable, organized youth baseball program. Schley added that other communities he has contacted do not charge a park user fee, and the league’s desired improvements were not made to the Bucholtz Park field.

“Each year, the city told us there was no money and the fields didn’t get improved,” Schley said.

Beggs pointed out that other groups in the community pay fees to rent park shelters or use the community center, and he said they couldn’t afford to let the baseball league use the park for free or at a reduced rate without raising local taxes.

The city budgets for and spends about $13,500 on the maintenance of Bucholtz Park fields and receives roughly $7,500 in revenue from the CYL, Clintonville Fast Pitch and Christian Softball Leagues. The remaining $6,000 is paid by taxpayers, Beggs said.

In one of the proposed compromises, Beggs said the city discussed allowing the league to use the facilities for a flat fee — instead of a per-user or per-tournament charge — as long as volunteers from the league stepped up to help cut the grass and pick up trash, a large amount of which is generated at the park by the players and spectators.

“That is work the city should be providing,” Schley said.

He added that the league feels more supported by the outlying communities, and that transitioning out of Clintonville will allow the organization to keep its focus on children enjoying the game of baseball.

While appreciative of the league’s efforts to provide athletic opportunities for area youth, Beggs said the city has an obligation to be financially responsible to all its citizens and taxpayers.

“It has never been our intent or desire that the CYL leave us,” Beggs said.

He said he wants the community to understand that the city worked hard to find a good solution to the league’s concerns.

“Ultimately, we cannot give every organization everything that it wants,” Beggs said.