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Economy squeezing sports at park

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Numbers of team sponsors, kids who can afford to pay fees are dwindling

By Walt Reichert

Companies and individuals tightening their belts to deal with tough economic times are putting the squeeze on the athletic programs at Clear Creek Park.

Shelbyville/Shelby County Parks and Recreation Director Clay Cottongim said fewer individuals and businesses are stepping up to the plate this year to help youth soccer, baseball, basketball and football programs. The park, for example has signups for 40 soccer teams but sponsors for only 14 of them. Youth basketball had 45 teams this winter, and seven of those teams were without sponsors.

Sponsorships – which range from $150 per team and up -- essentially pay for the cost of the team uniforms and keep costs down for individual kids, Cottongim said. In return, companies and individuals get their names and logos on the backs of the uniforms.

“It's a great way to advertise a business,” Cottongim said.

But as companies cut corners, fewer have come forward to help.

“We're hearing it's the economy,” Cottongim said. “It's mostly just the mom-and-pop businesses. They're saying they just don't have it to give this year.”

At the same time sponsorships are down, more youth who can't afford the fees are wanting to play, Cottongim said.

“It's more than usual, a lot more single moms who just can't afford the costs,” he said.

The parks department has a special scholarship fund to help kids who can't pay the fees. The money is set aside only for kids who cannot pay, and the park requires proof of inability to pay, Cottongim said.

According to Tom Becherer, football coordinator, the park had to absorb 20 percent of the players' costs because of kids who could not afford to pay. For spring soccer, there are 20 kids who want to play but cannot afford the fees.

Though sponsorship costs are set, Cottongim said the park will take any amount donors want to give to help the scholarship program.

“We'll take anything anybody wants to give,” he said.

Cottongim said for the time being the parks department is not considering cutbacks in programs. But if sponsorships and scholarship funds continue to lag, fees will have to increase.

 

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A sponsorships for a soccer team is $150. A sponsorship for a baseball teams is $200.

The deadline to sponsor a soccer team is March 10 to allow time to get the uniforms ready. The deadline to sponsor a baseball team is April 1.

Donations to help sponsor an individual child can be made in any amount.

For more information, call the parks department at 633-5059.