Baseball group needs plan, skin in the game on storage building
Members of the Medford City Council were right last week to question Medford City Baseball, Inc. (MCB) over the private group’s request for $10,000 in city tax money to pay for a new storage building at the field complex.
There is little doubt about the need for additional storage at the field. Currently storage at the field is provided by a standard- size garden shed. As field improvements continue to be made and field usage increases, the need for additional storage will also increase to protect the investment in equipment and supplies needed to keep the field operating in peak condition.
There is likewise little doubt that the city should have a role in the planning, design and construction of a storage building at the field. After all, it will be located on public land in the city park and will ultimately be owned by the city as a long-term capital asset just as the park shelters and concession stand are owned by the city.
What is less clear is how much of the tab for the building should be picked up by the city taxpayers and how much should be covered by revenue generated from individuals and groups using the field.
MCB’s request came at the January 13 committee of the whole meeting as baseball representatives presented the group’s annual report on field usage and the projects volunteers were hoping to accomplish in the coming year. By any measure, the partnership between the city and MCB has been a beneficial one for all involved. In a few short years, the group has brought new life to the fields and renewed excitement about baseball in the city. In the past, the fields sat unused. Summer evenings in the park are now filled with the laughter of children and the crack of bats hitting balls. More people at more events in the park should lead to more sales at the field’s concession stands, which should in turn provide a revenue stream to help cover ongoing field operations, maintenance and improvements. At least that is how it works at every other ball field in the county, most of which do not have the ongoing municipal involvement that the city provides.
What is unclear, given the MCB’s financial report to the council, is how much, if any, of the revenue generated by field use fees and concession is going toward MCB as the umbrella organization for field management versus how much of it is being kept by groups such as Little League.
The model presented to aldermen was that the city taxpayers pay, while everyone else plays. This understandably raised the hackles of those at city hall.
It is not unreasonable for MCB to ask the city for help in putting up a storage building. However, before doing so the group needs a more well-defined plan including what resources they were willing to put toward it either in cash and/or labor. There also needs to be further exploration into strategic partnerships with groups, such as the Medford Kiwanis Club which has its own storage needs for the Holiday Magic displays, to bring additional resources to the table.
MCB must also be more open with the council about its finances and the agreements it has with groups like Little League so that aldermen have the full picture. Only then can aldermen make an informed decision on if additional taxpayer resources should be used to make the project happen.
The storage needs at the park are not going to go away. MCB and its partner organizations should come back to the city with a real plan, not just looking for a handout.