The question is - should Alta and Aurelia share youth league?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Youth baseball has been an important part of the summer for many families in both Alta and Aurelia. Both communities have great facilities to be proud of; both have well-run concession stands.

The number of participants is not as strong as they have been in the past.

Some feel that Alta and Aurelia should combine forces; some want to maintain their own programs.

This issue was the topic of discussion at a special meeting last week. Alta and Aurelia parents had the opportunity to voice their opinions.

Alta Mayor Ron Neulieb opened the meeting by saying, "From the Alta side, no matter what happens, Aurelia kids are welcome to participate in our program."

It was pointed out throughout the meeting that the two programs are operated differently. The Alta youth program is funded by the city and the concession stand is managed by a paid employee. The Aurelia program is manned by a Little League Board, volunteers operate the concession stand and businesses sponsor the program by providing t-shirts for the participants.

It was reported that members of the Aurelia Little League Board approached the City of Alta/Park Board for the past three years with the idea of sharing programs; each time the Alta officials welcomed Aurelia ball players to participate in their program.

Aurelia Little League Board member Angie Kruger made her plea again at the meeting.

"We are asking that our kids play together. We don't want to see friends playing against friends."

Jennifer Morse, of Aurelia, added that the board was not asking Alta to "financially save our program."

Aurelia is not sure of their numbers, as registrations are still coming in but it is looking as though not all the teams can be fielded. Alta's numbers are in with some 180 participants.

For those that would like to see the programs shared, they see the young people traveling to practice on or play on diamonds in both communities. This brought great concern from many parents, wondering how their child/children would get to the opposite towns during the work day; as it is now, many of the children can make it to practices held in his or her own communities without difficulty and often without the assistance of a parent.

A vote was called as to how many parents or coaches would provide rides for those that needed them and a majority of the hands went up.

"This is about the kids," said A-A HS coach Dan Wendel. "There is pride in both communities. We should be able to work through this. I'd like to see it work. It'd be good for the kids."

Shawna Hillsabeck suggested that each community maintain its T-Ball programs and bring the other age groups together to play. "We're making this too hard - this should be an easy process."

Tracy Siebrecht pointed out that the youth program lends to the building up "of great high school teams."

Keith Gaes of Aurelia added that youth of both communities have been sharing wrestling and youth football for several years. "This is the only sport they are not together. I don't see why it wouldn't work out."

For those parents who see that there is not a full team for their child/children, there is the opportunity to get released from the Northwest Iowa Youth Board (a requirement if the child wants to go elsewhere to play). As Paula Radke pointed out aurelia youth may chose to go to Cherokee, Alta youth may chose to go to Storm Lake.

"Parents adapt to that driving and it becomes easier to do other things there. We're then losing our identities as a school."

Rob Hach pointed out that in Alta, there is always a "fight" for a place to practice or play. "It would be nice to have extra fields," he said, in relation to sharing the program and fields with Aurelia.

Greg Kueny, who was a member of the Alta School Board when the sharing agreements were put together, explained that this is a similar situation which requires representatives from each side coming together, talking and making an agreement.

"We don't have to join each other - we just need to share. Just like the schools. We're not joined we're just sharing."

Megan Peterson shared her feelings.

"I don't care either way but something needs to happen. We need to get this figured out so it doesn't keep coming up every year. We need to be flexible."

Paula Radke echoed that idea of change.

"Change is hard but if we can work it out, we'll probably look back and say, 'Why didn't we do that sooner.'"

Still others added that they don't think it's at all unusual for communities to keep their own little league teams, even though school districts may be sharing.

While most parents have signed their child/children up for summer ball all ready, it was pointed out, they signed up with the perception that their Aurelia kids would be playing in Aurelia and their Alta kids would be playing in Alta and changing that already into the game could cause problems.