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Economy forces sports programs to merge

MICHAEL GEBELEIN
Sports Writer

 

A struggling economy and a growing number of area programs offering youth sports has led to the city recreation department consolidating two of its youth sports programs with the Lincolnton Optimist Club.
The move began this fall with Optimist Club players and coaches playing in the Lincolnton Recreation Department’s soccer league, which was heralded a success by Optimist Club leadership.
The same is happening in the upcoming basketball season, but in reverse. The Optimist Club plans to absorb Recreation Department players into its program.
Lincolnton Optimist Club president Chris Brogden said combining the two programs made the most sense for both organizations.
“It’s become increasingly hard to field teams and do scheduling,” he said.
“Instead of us trying to schedule the Recreation Department’s teams in our league occasionally, we just decided to combine forces.”
In some cases, the Recreation Department and the Optimist Club were finding it difficult to gather enough participants to make their programs financially sound.
Brogden said he hoped the new system would result in better competition and
alleviate some of both
organizations’ money woes.
“Hopefully we’ll have more balanced teams by putting everybody into a pool when we divide teams, and having a few more teams will make scheduling easier,” he said.
“There’s a lot of extra expense that goes into these programs. By combining them, we’ll run it in one facility and eliminate some of the overhead, save some money and make it a little bit more cost-effective.”
The Optimist Club made an effort to shore up its accounts earlier this year with the sale of the Optimist Club Park off Startown Road to the county in March for $128,000. The club still uses the park for baseball, its most successful program, but the elimination of land payments and upkeep expenses has allowed for the lowering of registration fees in other sports.
Ultimately, Brogden said, the goal of the program is, as it’s always been, to continue to provide a safe and competitive environment for children to enjoy sports.
“The young kids are the heart of our programs,” he said. “Our goal over the next couple of years is to continue to build up these young kids and continue the foundation of our program and work toward the future.”
Registration for the basketball season, for girls and boys from kindergarten to 12th grade, ends Saturday. Players can register at Kate McCall, located at 317 E. Pine St. in Lincolnton. Registration costs $40.

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