The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
I read that a non-profit organization called Youth Excited about Sports (YES) wants to lease 40 acres of Warrensburg’s West Park for a sports complex. It appears that the plans are quite ambitious, including a major indoor sports facility and 4 ball fields, and will be built using private money and grants. West Park already has several ball fields and a soccer complex and is supposed to have a significant prairie restoration; it also has possible wetlands along Post Oak Creek.
I see many matters that the Warrensburg City Council will need to examine. Among these matters is what happens if YES runs out of money part way through the project or abandons the facility at a later date. Will Warrensburg be stuck with completing or maintaining another expensive edifice? We know the history of the Community Center.
Another matter is control of fields and playing time. One would assume that YES would want to control access to their facility and would want to limit its use to people who participate in their program. Absent any agreement to the contrary, YES will not be constrained by the need of a public facility to accommodate everyone.
A third matter is competition with city facilities. Will YES siphon off participants and revenue from city-run facilities? Will the city have to pay YES if a city program uses YES fields? Or, will YES and the Parks Department work together to bring larger tournaments to Warrensburg? All this needs to be settled before a lease is granted.
A final, and perhaps critical, matter is the nature of YES itself. According to its website, its purpose is “to teach the fundamentals of life to youth incorporating Christian values such as sportsmanship, teamwork, cooperation, fair-play, and character- building while having fun.” The website thanks three local Baptist organizations. YES further says part of its vision is “Providing directed efforts to create a program that is inline with traditional Christian values is and assessable [sic] for all races, sexes, religions and ethnic cultures.” Taken together, a question arises if people whose beliefs do not accord with those of evangelical Protestants will feel comfortable participating in YES programs. This means that the city will have to carefully examine the propriety of providing so much to a religious-based organization and to prohibit proselytizing of any sort, lest they be subject to expensive “establishment” clause lawsuits.
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