Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services staff will meet with the Boosters of Boys and Girls Sports (BOBS) on Monday to discuss the city’s existing arrangement with the group.
During Tuesday night’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting at Carnegie Forum, PRCS Director Jeff Hood said the city would need to reassess its contract with the BOBS due to low staffing levels in the department and the recent decline in youth sports registrations.
For 60 years, the BOBS have had a unique partnership with the city. The BOBS organized youth sports teams and raised funds for park infrastructure, while the city assisted with a portion of the BOBS’ administrative needs while also providing recreational space for the group’s athletic events.
“We have a mutually beneficial relationship with the city, and we are willing to do what it takes to keep that relationship,” BOBS President Kim Ruoff said. “I know our registration numbers have dropped over the past couple of years from 2,500 kids to 2,000, with baseball taking a hit.”
Ruoff believes technology and competitive club sports have siphoned away children who would, in the past, have participated in the organization’s sports programs.
“I now have 500 fewer kids, but I am proud that we can offer athletic programs to 2,000 children in the community,” she said.
BOBS offers youth softball, baseball, soccer, basketball and football to local children.
PRCS currently covers the cost of officials, as well as providing the staff needed to maintain the sports fields, Hood said. Parks staff also assists the BOBS with sports registration and fingerprinting of volunteers.
An estimated $500,000 to $1 million goes to fund the BOBS program annually, he said.
“The BOBS volunteers do fundraise to help with the cost through the concession stand, which operates during games, and they invest in upgrades to sports fields,” Hood said.
The city has not made any decision about the nature of its partnership with BOBS yet, he said, but has been forced to reconsider the arrangement due to low staffing levels in the department and the cost of services provided to the BOBS.
The parks department is struggling under the strain of inadequate staffing levels, which has stretched its maintenance staff fairly thin, Hood said.
“We receive fewer dollars today than we did 10 years ago to cover our operations, and our staffing levels are where they were at 51 years ago,” he said.
Hood hopes the BOBS will agree to take on more recreational responsibilities so that the parks department can focus on its maintenance obligations.
“If they need us to take on more clerical work, we’ll do it. If they need us to mow lawns and take on more maintenance work, we are happy to take it on. We are committed to the relationship with the city,” Ruoff said.
During the parks commission meeting, Commissioner Mike Carouba asked Hood if the monies allocated through Measure L would supplement the cost of the BOBS program.
“Measure L saved us, but the purpose of Measure L was to protect (existing) services, not provide additional revenue for us to take on more services,” Hood said.
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services received an estimated $843,000 from Measure L, the half-cent sales tax increase that goes into Lodi’s general fund. The funds received from Measure L were used to fund playground replacement and deferred maintenance for trees.
As new subdivisions near completion over the next three years, Hood said, the parks department will need to establish parks in Rose Gate, Villa Fiore, Orchard Lane Park, and maintain a walking trail in Reynolds Ranch.
“I have circulated concepts as an alternative approach to our current contract with BOBS and I will be meeting with them next week,” he said. “We are not severing a relationship with the BOBS, but we need to change the way we do business.”
Hood has been telling the BOBS board to take on more recreational responsibilities as staffing levels remain stagnant and funding dwindles, he said.
“It’s not that we don’t want to continue to offer the services (to the BOBS), we can’t,” he said.
Rouff said she could not yet comment on the financial impact the BOBS program has on the parks department’s budget because she has not yet met with city staff.