As the 2021 season approaches, Wharton Babe Ruth (WBR) and the Wharton Independent School District (WISD) remain in disagreement concerning the league’s use of the district’s baseball stadium.
As previously reported by The County Gin, WISD continues to play hardball with the nearly 60-year-old Wharton Babe Ruth organization.
WBR President Grady Smith and WISD Superintendent Micheal O’Guin Sr. met earlier this week to discuss a revised draft of the presented agreement.
According to Smith, this revision is the district’s final offer and is in stark contrast to previous years within the six decade long relationship.
“I know that if we can’t continue, it would be catastrophic for our baseball youth.”
“I’m not sure what happened, but we have supported WISD and, specifically, the WISD baseball program, field maintenance, field equipment, fencing, buildings, etc. for many years,” Smith said.
“Our use of the field was never questioned. Now, once the district has a bond passed and additions to the ball field, [the district] is giving us a hard time.”
The Facility Use Agreement
The WISD Facility Use Agreement states that any non-profit, paying groups with less than 50% WISD student participation are required to pay the district $100 per hour for the stadium.
If the organization has at least 50% participation of WISD students, the district waives the $100 per hour stadium fee.
However, the non-profit, paying group will still be responsible for the district’s service fees. Each service requires a four hour minimum charge.
Those service fees include: custodians at a rate of $20/hour; maintenance at a rate of $25/hour; food service at a rate of $20/hour; technology at a rate of $35/hour; security at a rate of $35/hour; and supervisor at a rate of $50/hour.
WBR would be responsible for custodial, maintenance and security services and requires an additional $1,000 for any outfield advertisement.
“We’re looking at a minimum of $800 per week and that’s after we have negotiated,” Smith told The Gin. “I’m just in shock.
“The original price was $400 per night. Now, it’s $800/week for four nights or $1200/week for five or more nights.
“All this does is hurt the youth. How can we be expected to pay that kind of money? We still have our annual liability insurance costs, umpires, organization dues and the operation costs for the league.”
Since all deliberation took place within closed session during a WISD School Board meeting, the reason behind these high dollar changes remain unknown and publicly unavailable.
Smith said he is planning a WBR board meeting and wants the public to attend.
“I want to properly inform everyone of what is taking place and hear any recommendations,” Smith told The Gin.
“I cannot speak for the [WBR board], but I am concerned for the future of our organization and know that if we can’t continue, it would be catastrophic for our baseball youth.”
The meeting of the Wharton Babe Ruth Board is set for 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 28 at the Wharton Train Depot.
The County Gin will continue to closely follow this matter and will update as soon as information becomes available.