There’s a battle brewing over little league baseball in Imperial Beach that has local parents and volunteers extremely concerned about the future of the all-American pastime.
Parents and volunteers with Imperial Beach Little League and Softball said the city is trying to ruin their league by turning over control of local playing fields to the YMCA.
While the YMCA is known for their great work in youth recreation sports and camps, volunteers feel the YMCA is not necessarily in the business of managing competitive sports.
Currently, more than 800 children play little league baseball and fast-pitch softball in Imperial Beach. The leagues use the city-owned fields at the Imperial Beach Sports Park and Rec Center free of charge.
In return, the leagues spend more than $20,000 to help maintain the facilities.
Thus far, it’s been a successful arrangement. However, parents now worry it could soon change if the city potentially jeopardizes their league system.
“What’s going to happen is, basically, Imperial Beach Little League as we know it, will not exist here,” said Brian Polge of Imperial Beach Little League.
The city is negotiating a deal with the YMCA to take over management of the park. Mayor Jim Janney said the deal will save the city $200,000 per year, which could be used for other city services.
“If we can provide the same, if not better services for less cost, that’s what we should be looking at,” said Janney.
However, the leagues are concerned the fields won’t be made available for little league and softball if they’re ran by the YMCA.
Parents also fear they may have to pay more money to keep their kids in the sport.
“There'd be higher fees because first of all, you'd have to pay the Y a membership fee, and then for each program, you have to pay another fee,” said Dorothy Weakley, a parent with IB Softball. “We're on one income, my husband's in the military, so that would mean my kids wouldn't be able to play.”
Despite mounting concerns from league parents, Mayor Janney insists nothing has been finalized. He said any potential deal with the YMCA would have to allow for little league’s continued use of the fields.
Still, league volunteers remain skeptical, partly because they said they weren’t told about the negotiations with the YMCA in the first place.
“We’ve been here 50-plus years. Don’t mess with it,” added Polge.
The mayor said a final decision will not be made without public input.
Meanwhile, for its part, the YMCA says they’re not the bad guys and that the city came to them, not vice versa.
A YMCA executive manager told NBC 7 Thursday that they have no intention of displacing the leagues, but would have to look at ways to offset their operational costs. The YMCA executive says that could include the “exact same” arrangement the league currently holds.