My apologies for the misleading headline but I am still stewing about the situation for finding practice and game fields for our high school rugby club. We search for a fair way for the City and the School District to allow better access to fields for youth sports.
There is no conspiracy but obstacles abound. On February 18 I will be attending a City Parks and Rec meeting about the future of field use.
Background info for our club team, which provides rugby to under-served and poor kids throughout Oakland. About 80-percent of our team is dirt poor and lives in the Hood. Many do not have access to traditional school sports like many of us had growing up. Every year we deal with the City and the Oakland Schools trying to get game and practice fields in winter. The City does not allow grass field use during the rainy season because it tends to thrash the fields.
So the City has told us that the policy is that we can't make reservations more than a month in advance. The issue with that is that we have to lineup referees and confirm game days with other teams, only 30 days does not allow much advance planning. Our season is February through April.
What really ticked me off is that one of our coaches finally got an audience with Castlemont High about getting on their turf field for a game. (For the record, Oakland High never responds to our annual requests for a field.) Guess how much Castelmont wants? $250 for a few hours on a Saturday. Why? Because the OUSD custodians' union has a minimum fee of 3 hours at $40 per-hour and apparently OUSD wants to profit on the rest.
I am a City resident who pays hefty property taxes like the other coaches who volunteer time for free. Oakland: Do you not get that we want to engage youth in productive outlets??? My nickname for Oakland when it comes to youth sports is "The City of No."
I learned a while ago that it's a good idea not to bitch if you don't have proposed solutions. So here are some ideas for the City dealing with how it assigns field use:
- Give priority to youth sports. (Adults have more options for recreation.)
- Give priority to youth sports in the "heart" of their league seasons. A season should be defined as 3 months. Teams need time to sign up for fields far more in advance of 30 days in order to schedule matches and line up referees.
- There should be a public record or a published calender online of which group has which field when. (Don't let us wonder if a certain group has a field because of "connections" or something unsavory.)
- If there are competing youth sports trying to get on the same field, alternate the usage. Don't just give field space every year to the most popular youth activity.
- Look into building more all-weather fields. In the long run they are cheaper than maintaining grass.
Are we not all in this process together of allowing kids more opportunities. Why shouldn't a kid in Oakland have as much opportunity as a kid in Moraga or Orinda?