Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Madeira fields scarce

Athletic leagues compete fiercely for limited space to play

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MADEIRA - Officials in this landlocked Hamilton County community are taking a deeper look into a squeeze on practice fields for youth sports leagues, an issue in many Greater Cincinnati communities.

But City Manager Tom Moeller said he doubts young athletes will find immediate relief.

"We don't have any land available where additional athletic fields are possible," Moeller said.

Council's Recreation and Parks Committee is trying to determine the scope of the problem and decide if field expansion should be a priority in next year's recreation budget, he said.

Communities across the region are experiencing the same problem as residential growth gobbles up green space. .

James Erion, who sits on the city recreation and parks board and is a member of local select and recreational soccer boards, said the crunch in Madeira hasn't reached crisis proportions. But, he said, it seems to be getting worse as leagues besides baseball and soccer ask for field time.

"We've been approached by a group wanting to bring lacrosse into the area. There's just no place to do it," Erion said.

About 800 Madeira youngsters play baseball, softball and soccer in spring, compared to slightly more than half that number in fall, when only soccer is in season, Moeller said. The city has six developed soccer fields and eight baseball diamonds.

Spring presents the most serious problem because Knothole baseball is given first priority for field use. That means soccer teams have to find fields wherever they can, Erion said.

Problems surfaced about five years ago when recreational soccer leagues began playing spring and fall seasons, Erion said. Before that, soccer was played only in fall.

"There's just not a whole lot you can do when you are a landlocked community. There's not a lot of land ... and any green space is quickly being taken over," Erion said.

And buying land seems to be out of the question.

"As the city goes and as a soccer organization, we can't compete with a developer and what they are willing to pay for acreage," he said.


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