Sunday, September 17

I'm Not Blaming Armada For This...

I don't know enough about the situation to blame anyone, so this is not an article complaining about Jacksonville Armada, only it kind of is. Here's the deal, or lack of deal: my kid plays soccer on a co-ed grade 5-8 team that plays against other such teams. These are private schools, most of which without their own fields. We're not ritzy schools with big-time donors, so we use public parks. However, the arrangement we had for the use of Ed Austin Park has dissolved under Armada rule.

I guess I kind of assume that there was never a contract or official agreement. The soccer fields at Ed Austin seem to be used for league play, and the last few leagues seemingly allowed our teams to play on their fields. Two games a week for a couple of months, I'd estimate, and the games are from 4pm to 5:30, so I know it never interfered with league play.

It seems that the arrangement lasted for about a decade, with each league mentioning it to the next, and nobody having an issue with it. Everything seemed to be the same this year as Armada took over the fields, I assume for their own leagues. Then the fields weren't ready for our first game, or our next two games. And then, the second week into our season, we were told the fields would not be available for us.

I assume the folks at Armada decided against continuing the arrangement. I am sure the cost of renting the fields was prohibitive, so now we will drive 30 minutes for each home game rather than a short five-minute jaunt. I also assume it's an insurance issue, as these sorts of things often are, and Armada's ownership is worth a lot of money, so I guess I understand the desire to protect that money.

It also reminds me a little of my experience playing baseball in Milwaukee. A wealthy baseball lover took over our nearly bankrupt local park leagues. He invested money in new fields that looked really great. But he also got an obscenely good deal from Milwaukee County, then turned around to try to make a huge profit on the deal. He was a businessman, and he saw the opportunity to take his passion and turn it into extra income for himself. The fields were dangerous because lack of netting, there was nothing for little kids to do while there besides dodging foul balls, and the fields themselves started falling apart after a couple of seasons. But I'm sure the profits were still there.

Again, I don't know enough about Armada ownership or the leagues run by the team to make any accusations. I do wonder whether or not we want all of our public parks (and not just Ed Austin) to be run by elite leagues. There's something to be said for recreation-type leagues and teams. Most of our kids aren't going pro. My kids want me to take them to some Armada games, but I kind of have a bad taste for the team right now. I'm sure it won't last, and I'll probably become a fan. Maybe not this year, since I'll be spending all my ticket money on gas for my kid's home games.

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