Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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Sun editorial:

Fair play for our kids

State group being in charge of soccer field allocation isn’t equitable

We’re paying particular attention to a meeting scheduled for today at Las Vegas City Hall. It doesn’t involve labor relations, liquor licenses or zoning enforcement.

It has to do with something that directly affects our children and grandchildren. It’s about fair play, which may be the most important of values we try to impart on our children when it comes to sports and life in general.

The particular sport we’re talking about is soccer, which probably involves more children than any other organized sport in the state. And the issue: One soccer organization in Nevada is bullying the others.

Who hasn’t spent a Saturday — or an afternoon after school — at a field, lounging in a beach chair or nervously pacing the sideline, yelling encouragements to our children and grandchildren? At the least, we’ve driven by the parks and fields and seen the throngs of children and parents getting their fill of fun and exercise.

Thankfully, Las Vegas has invested in soccer fields, including two outstanding facilities: the Kellogg-Zaher and the Bettye Wilson soccer complexes, each with multiple playing fields and good amenities.

These facilities are outstanding places to host tournaments, where children from different leagues and from out of town can gather for exciting competition. These tournaments, with their entry fees, are the primary way that the host soccer associations make money to pay the bills, including renting fields.

It would stand to reason that the use of these city-owned parks would be managed by the Las Vegas Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department. There are more soccer kids, more teams, more clubs and more leagues than there are fields to accommodate them all. So perhaps the biggest issue of the day isn’t which pizza parlor they’ll go to after the game but who at City Hall is fairly assigning the fields, not just for practices and games but the big tournaments that these kids — and the soccer associations — live for.

So who at City Hall is calling the shots in allocating fields for the organized soccer groups? Actually, nobody. The city has delegated the responsibility of scheduling all of the city’s soccer fields — the fancy, multi-field complexes and the neighborhood fields — to the statewide Nevada Youth Soccer Association. The logic at the time seemed to be: Who better than a soccer overseer to assign fields?

But with that sort of logic, why wouldn’t the city hire a private architect to review building plans submitted by his competition?

Indeed, here’s where fair play comes into question. When it comes to allocating fields and grabbing the best (revenue-generating) tournament dates, the Nevada Youth Soccer Association certainly has the inside track. Two studies of soccer-field allocations, one conducted in 2010 by the city and another that was completed recently by an outside firm, certainly raises the issue that soccer fields are not being fairly allocated among the other soccer associations and leagues. Because of those studies, city officials and representatives from the Nevada Youth Soccer Association are scheduled to sit down today and look for a fairer way to allocate fields and tourney dates.

Among the organizations asking for a fair share of the fields is the Southern Nevada Soccer Association, which counts about 5,000 players. Its leaders have fired off letters to the city and the Nevada Youth Soccer Association, citing what it claims is evidence that it has been dealt bum tournament dates and otherwise has gotten the bum’s rush in reserving fields.

In the end, only one thing should matter: that the city of Las Vegas find an equitable way to assign fields and tournament dates to the benefit of all the children in our valley who love chasing and kicking a ball across the field.

It seems doubtful that we can hold such expectations when the decision-making is in the hands of an organization that is in a position to deal itself the best fields and tournament dates, feeding its own revenue stream.

That’s hardly the fair-play role model we want for our children.

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