By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– The City of North Liberty and one of the community’s most popular youth programs have put their partnership in writing.
The North Liberty City Council unanimously approved an agreement between the city and the North Liberty Youth Baseball and Softball league (NLYBS) at its Jan. 28 meeting.
Now in its 22nd season, NLYBS is a developmental program designed to teach kids ages four through 13 the fundamentals of baseball and softball. By last year, the program was serving 948 youth, with 81 teams, 334 volunteer coaches and a board of 22 members.
NLYBS has always partnered with the city to provide the league, with each entity contributing resources to keep it operational.
While the city’s youth are the beneficiaries of the program, NLYBS is a separate, non-profit organization. Funded solely by sponsorships, participant fees and donations– including support from local groups like the Optimists of North Liberty and the North Liberty American Legion– NLYBS has raised the money to build the ball fields they use, and the city has provided the space for them. In turn, the city rents three of the ball fields and a concession stand to other users on weekends, bringing in revenues for the city.
But as the league continued to grow along with North Liberty’s burgeoning population, so did the needs; for diamonds, concessions, parking and other essentials. Though the city and NLYBS have historically worked together, the agreement between the two became more of an understanding, rather than something formal.
That’s why the two groups converged last year to craft a contractual agreement.
“NLYBS had a written agreement with the city up until five or six years ago, but at some point it became more informal; a handshake type of agreement,” said organizer Cindy Hill. “NLYBS and the city have grown to the point that this really isn’t the best way to do business. There are just too many players in the game, and turnover in the NLYBS board makes it even more difficult.”
Therefore, the revamped, four-page, three-year document outlines each entity’s responsibilities for programming and facilities, and sets a schedule for field use. The city is responsible for maintaining the fields and restrooms throughout the seasons, while NLYBS organizes a pre-season field enhancement day to prepare the fields for seasonal use, for example.
“On Field Enhancement Day, between 400 to 500 players and their families come out to the ball park to rake leaves, pick up trash, fill holes in the outfields, and generally do light cleaning and maintenance. The city provides the dirt, wheelbarrows, and shovels that we use to fill the holes and picks up the bags of leaves and trash that are collected,” Hill explained. When several of the fields were washed out last season, NLYBS pitched in on the cost of infield mix and the City crews spread it and got the fields back in playing condition, she added.
Much of the agreement simply puts in writing what both the city and NLYBS have practiced for years. One new facet satisfies the city’s request for financial information. NLYBS must provide a copy of its annual financial records to the city, and the two parties agree to meet each fall to review the season and any concerns or suggestions they might have.
“This is a tremendous document. (NLYBS organizers) really do a lot for the city in terms of providing this service to the city,” said council member Chris Hoffman. “This (process) has really enhanced my perspective of the relationship between NLYBS and the city. Also I’m happy to see the inclusion of the annual financial reporting in this contract.”
Council member Terry Donahue agreed.
“The definition and relationships and expectations are far better in this (contract),” said Donahue.
NLYBS‘ Hill agreed.
“The current agreement is almost exactly the same as the previous agreements so nothing has really changed in the relationship,” Hill said. “The advantage is that everyone knows who is responsible for what. As we know, games tend to be a lot more fun when everyone is playing by the same set of rules, and that is basically what the agreement does.”
North Liberty City Administrator Ryan Heiar told the council during its Jan. 29 budget work session that the city and NLYBS are now in discussions about cost-sharing for the construction of a new concession stand and restroom at Penn Meadows Park, where the majority of NLYBS games are played. NLYBS has also built fields at Van Allen, Garner and Penn Elementary schools in North Liberty.
“Hopefully, we will be able to begin formally planning a new concession stand and restroom facility at Penn Meadows this season,” said Hill. “We have been raising funds and talking about it for quite a while. The need for additional T-ball and rookie fields had to take a priority, but now we are ready to make the new facility a priority.”
The current restroom facility at Penn Meadows consists of one stall each for men and women, and portable toilets are used in the rest of the park.
“It isn’t unusual for us to have 32 T-ball and rookie teams playing 16 games on Tuesday and Friday evenings,” said Hill. “When you add in the player’s families, you are looking at upwards of 640 people. Adequate restroom facilities are definitely an NLYBS priority.”
The concession stand at Penn Meadows Park is run by NLYBS during league games and major fundraisers. However, tournaments are held at Penn Meadows by other leagues almost every weekend through the summer, bringing many people into North Liberty on the weekends from other areas. “Right now, the organizations holding the tournaments have to set up temporary concession areas. We’ve been told that they would like to be able to rent a permanent concession stand area, or have someone else run a concession area for them,” said Hill.
NLYBS is already gearing up for its summer 2014 season. Registration is underway from now until March 1, and games are planned to start the week of April 28. The league also runs a fall ball league, a non-competitive program for younger players.
Interested persons can visit the league’s website at www.eteamz.com/NLYB  to register or for more information.
“NLYBS does a nice job of communicating with us,” said Heiar “It’s been a good working relationship.”