T he Whitehall Youth League is hoping some teamwork between the league, the town and the community will result in some much needed improvements to fields at the Rec. Center.
League officials approached the town board at last Wednesday’s meeting looking for assistance and the town is expected to review their request.
The fields, which are used for baseball, softball, cheerleading and football, have fallen into disrepair and feature a litany of problems.
On Friday evening four members of the youth league board — Chad Monty, Jeremy Putorti, Melvin O’Dell, and Clayton Laubach — met with Supervisor George Armstrong to point out a few of the problems.
They pointed out sinkholes, areas of poor drainage, uneven playing surfaces and holes in the fence surrounding the area. They also discussed inadequate restroom facilities and insufficient space for equipment storage.
“It’s disappointing because teams from other towns come and comment on the field,” said Monty.
“It’s been a long time since any work was put into the fields,” said Putorti. “There are all sorts of problems. It’s not good for the community.
“We want to make it safe and a little more aesthetically appealing.”
Although the town purchased some bases a few years ago, there has been little money set aside in its budget for maintenance of the fields, leaving the onus on the league.
“We’re not looking for lots of money. Some machinery and help from the town crews would go a long way,” said Putorti.
One of the biggest problems is drainage. Because the fields are not crowned, water collects in the infield and can make the field unplayable. The problem is made worse by the fact that the material in the infield has compacted so tightly over the years that it doesn’t allow water to permeate the ground. That same material has slowly spread to the outfield, enlarging the area that is affected each time it rains.
Last year a tournament the youth league says it relies on as a major fundraiser had to be canceled because the fields were too wet to permit play.
“We need to bring some shale in, crown the field, dump some topsoil on it and let the grass grow back,” Monty said.
League officials admit it may be a little too late to properly address the drainage issues before the season begins in another month, but are hoping to get a cost estimate to bring in fill and topsoil.
The fields are also littered with a number of deep, softball-size holes that will likely require some fill. League officials are worried a wrong step could result in a twisted ankle or worse.
The league has taken steps to address some of the problems.
A pair of goal posts that was just out of the field of play was removed so kids wouldn’t run into them and get hurt.
The league has also purchased a prefabricated storage shed so that equipment isn’t sitting inside dugouts all year. And officials will construct two dugouts on the field located closest to the Rec. Center. They may consider renting portable toilets during the season as well.
But with $3,000 in insurance costs each year and the recent discovery that 29 football helmets failed their annual safety exam and are therefore unusable, the board’s resources are expected to dry up quickly, which is why they’ve requested the assistance of the town.
Armstrong said it may be difficult to find money this year because there wasn’t anything set aside in the budget, but he said the town will work with the league to develop solutions.
The league may also ask for the village for some assistance and are looking for volunteers from the community who may be able to lend a helping hand.
The nonprofit league, which has been in operation for more than two decades, has about 150 kids signed up for the baseball and softball programs this spring.
“This is the future of the community. It starts right here,” Putorti said.