Ogden youth football league seeking more community support after field loss

Jul 17 2013 - 11:53pm

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Ben Lomond Cobras coach Neil Earley directs one of his players during their “pee wee” league game against Kaysville at Ben Lomond High School in Ogden in 2002. Now youths in Ogden’s youth football program can no longer practice and play on the fields of the city’s high schools. (Standard-Examiner file photo)
Ben Lomond Cobras coach Neil Earley directs one of his players during their “pee wee” league game against Kaysville at Ben Lomond High School in Ogden in 2002. Now youths in Ogden’s youth football program can no longer practice and play on the fields of the city’s high schools. (Standard-Examiner file photo)

OGDEN -- Kids on the Ogden City Wildcats youth football team have, for years, practiced and faced their opponents on the fields of high schools in the city.

Members of the team's board of directors now say they are saddened to announce that access to the city's high school fields and stadiums will no longer be available for use by youths in their program.

"It's just always been a struggle," said Suzan Rushing, a member of the team's board of directors and former director of 11 years. "Every direction we have turned, it seems like we have kind of hit a brick wall."

In years past, Rushing said, the team was given access to the football field at Ben Lomond High School. Then, she said, it was announced the team would have to begin meeting what she calls "unreasonable stipulations" in order to continue using the facility -- including purchasing field-marking equipment to donate to the school.

The nonprofit organization was unable to meet the demands of the school and instead chose to move its once-weekly activities to the field at Ogden High School, where no stipulations were given for the field's use.

"It was really nice to use the high schools," Rushing said, "because it put space between the coaches and players and the spectators."

Last year, however, Rushing said Ogden High School gave the team notice that, because of wear and tear from excessive play, its field would also be unavailable for continued use unless payment is made to help with maintenance costs.

"Apparently, this year, now they don't want us on their field," she said.

Ogden School District implements a system for allotting field use, said Donna Corby, district community relations administrator.

But she said she did not know the specifics of the contracts and directed the Standard-Examiner to speak with athletic administrators from Ogden School District for additional information.

Those contacts were not available for comment.

Nate Taggart, an administrative specialist for Weber School District, said the fees associated with use of some high school football fields come from the need for a staff to operate concession stands and other stadium services that are not available at smaller school fields.

Because of the high number of low-income families in Ogden whose children wish to participate on the team, Ogden City Wildcats Director Daniella Van Buren said the team is unable to charge a large enough registration fee to cover the additional cost of securing a high school football field this year.

"It just isn't in our budget," she said.

The announcement came as a disappointment to some members on the board of directors, who said they point toward a lack of community support as the reason the team is unable to continue using the high schools' fields.

"We are a part of this community," Rushing said. "We're trying to make kids better prepared to enter high school. There is just a real lack of community support for this program."

William Hambric, a member of the Ogden City Wildcats board of directors, said other communities with teams in the Wasatch Front Football League have found ways to support their teams.

And, he said, Ogden needs to do the same thing.

"If you look at the surrounding areas that are involved in the WFFL -- Layton, Bear River, West Haven -- they get support from their own communities," he said.

"It's time for everyone to say, 'Hey, these are our kids. Let's take care of our kids.'"

Van Buren said Ogden School District has worked with the team and arranged for it to play on the field of Mound Fort Junior High School this year, but Hambric and Rushing said they worry the facility may be insufficient.

Hambric expressed concern about the junior high school's lack of restrooms for use by players and spectators, while Rushing pointed out the difficulty that may be faced in operating a concession stand.

The team has also received a large amount of support from Ogden city, Van Buren said, including funding last year for the team to purchase new uniforms.

"Ogden city -- without them, there wouldn't be a program," she said.

Rushing said the football program plays an important role in teaching the city's youths important life lessons and skills.

"It's just a shame that a lot of the community doesn't realize the importance of this program and what it does for the kids."

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