“There are some parent organizations, but we do the majority of our Little Leagues,” said Pavin Neloms, director of the Talladega Parks and Recreation Department.
He said the city runs about 80 percent of the leagues in Talladega, and the debate about the advantages and disadvantages of parent-run, city-run youth programs could go back and forth.
Jim Armstrong, executive director of the Sylacauga Parks and Recreation Department, said it was only three years ago the city became involved with the Cal Ripken Baseball League.
“We had people come to us who weren’t satisfied with the parent organization,” Armstrong said.
He said the city advertised the start of the baseball league and the response was overwhelming.
“We had more than 280 kids that first year,” Armstrong said. “People just wanted something different.”
Sylacauga already had its football and soccer programs in full swing for a number of years before starting the city’s baseball league.
Armstrong said the city handles just about everything for their youth leagues, including concessions.
He said there is a $2 admission for anyone 5 years and older to attend football games, and the city charges about $65 per child for youth registration.
Talladega Parks and Recreation Department charges by the car load, $2.
Armstrong pointed out some advantages of a city-run youth sports program.
“When you have a city-run program, you don’t have personalities in it,” Armstrong said.
He also pointed out that staff members, who work for the city, handle all the money and are accountable for all the funds.
“Everything is audited,” Armstrong said. “With a parent run organization, there is less accountability.”
He said the Sylacauga Parks and Recreation Department pretty much handles everything, so parents don’t have to worry about working concession stands, lining fields or any other work related to youth sports.
Roben Duncan, director of the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department, said their department also manages the concession stand at Little League games.
“It enables the parent to watch their kids,” she said.
She said the city’s youth sport programs are a service to the community.
Duncan said their youth baseball teams travel to other cities, Munford and Ohatchee, while girls softball teams play teams from Munford and Talladega.
Soccer teams play other city teams, she said.
Duncan admitted it is not a small undertaking to have city-run youth sports programs, but it’s worth it.
Duncan said she networks with other recreation directors to set up games with teams from other municipalities or towns.
“I don’t care what you do, you cannot make everybody happy 100 percent of the time,” she said, adding that it’s difficult for revenues to exceed expenses with youth sports programs. “You’re really doing this as a service to the community. You aren’t doing this for a profit.”
Phillip Deason, Moody Parks and Recreation director, said the parent-run sports programs of the past are history for Moody, adding he was once involved with a parent-run program.
“It was a nightmare raising money,” he said.
Today, Moody’s youth sports program is admired by many.
Although Moody handles all aspects of the sports program, active youth sports associations help and aid the city.
Deason said their youth associations hold fundraisers and/or tournaments, and put all proceeds back into the park.
“Everything that happens in the park stays in the park,” Deason said.
He said the city collects the registration fees, orders uniforms and supplements costs related to youth sports, if there are any funding shortfalls.
“The city pays for the referees,” Deason said, adding that the city spent $20,000 for referees alone for all city sports last year.
He said the Moody Parks and Recreation Department also handles all the money and staffs the concession stands.
“You just show up and watch your kids play ball,” Deason said.
He said it’s the goal of the Moody Parks and Recreation Department to provide children something they will remember for a lifetime.
“The park is a large expense, but it’s a valued service to the community,” Deason said.