Lights out at Lane? Budget cuts hurt boys of summer

new-laneplayers0914Lane League players bow their heads in prayer during last Saturday's opening day ceremonies.

It was a beautiful day for the Lane Babe Ruth League’s 52nd opening ceremony on Saturday, April 3. Dozens of 13-15-year old boys lined up in the infield in their crisp white pants and colorful shirts, the Boy Scouts raised the American flag, and two Albemarle High School girls sang the National Anthem. But an otherwise perfect day for baseball was marred this year by the County’s budget woes.

“There’s a storm cloud gathering over the county office building,” League president Shannon Wilder told the crowd, turning a typically brief opening statement into a plea for help, “but we’re not going to let it rain on the Lane League.”

Just two weeks ago, Wilder said, the County informed the league that it would no longer be paying the electricity bill for the field lights as of July 1, an expense the County has been covering since the lights were installed by the Lane League in the early 1990s. The news came as a shock to Wilder and the League, which operates on a shoe-string budget and depends heavily on volunteers.

According to Wilder, the County estimated it costs around $5,300 a year to light the field. While that’s a tiny percentage of the County’s proposed $294 million budget, Wilder says that figure represents 10 percent of the League’s annual budget.

Wilder was one of many to address the Board of Supervisors last week as they consider $10 million in spending cuts, but compared to the millions that County schools stand to lose, or some of the essential services that will need to be trimmed, he admits that his plea for the lights “kind of paled in comparison.”

Still, Wilder questions the short notice, and the decision to put such a long-running service to area youth in jeopardy to save so little money. This Spring, 125 boys signed up for Lane to create 10 teams, and Wilder expects the same number for the Fall ball season. In addition, Lane sponsors a summer senior league for around 80 16-19-year olds.

“The county is doing the right thing by not raising taxes, and cutting spending,” said Wilder, “but they are essentially asking us to “raise taxes” by increasing registration fees.”

County Parks and Recreation director Pat Mullaney, who recommended the cut, says he realizes that the short notice presents a problem for the Lane League, but justifies the cut by pointing out that because the League has exclusive use of the field, the cost of the lighting should be borne by those who benefit.

However, as local architect and Lane Dad Keith Scott points out, Lane is the only Babe Ruth facility in the City or County, and therefore provides 13-15 year old boys who are too old for Little League or not quite ready for High School play their only opportunity to play baseball. What’s more, says Scott, the lights at Lane allow the field to be used day and night, eliminating need for the County to provide additional field space.

“The $5,000 expense out of the County budget seems like a small price to pay to keep the Babe Ruth baseball league thriving with such limited facilities,” says Scott.

Mullaney says they don’t plan on leaving the League in the lurch.

“We’re in discussion with the Lane League on an agreement where they pay for the lights and in return we will help with emergency or unanticipated repairs to the facility since it is County owned,” say Mullaney. “ In fact, we just agreed to pay a plumbing repair bill which will more than fund the lights for the remainder of this season.”

Indeed, Wilder told the crowd Saturday that the County had generously offered to take over capital repairs. However, he pointed out that those were one-time costs, whereas the $5,300 for lighting would have to be absorbed every year.

“If we lose one young player because of increased registration fees,” Wilder told the crowd on Saturday, “that’s one too many.”


Why should my taxes pay for your electricity? I am out doing car washes, selling candy bars and raffle tickets for my grand-kids teams. We raised $12,000 last season from those who VOLUNTARILY donated. If you want $5300 get off your duffs and the people of Cville will help you, but don't steal from us elderly taxpayers. They are your kids, not ours.

Pat Mullaney makes no sense in his justification of not paying for the lights. 75% of the kids playing in that league are county residents. Private citizens and Corp.donations are footing 90% of the bill to run the baseball league. You would think that Parks and Rec would be thrilled to get such a return for their money.

The population in the Urban ring has exploded in the last 20+ years and not a single athletic field has been built for those communities. A lighted baseball field takes the place of 2-3 unlit fields. Is the county going to build some new ball fields?

well now, the city does a great job of funding its fields and does pay the light bills. Interestingly, every little league program in the city is comprised of 2/3 county residents.

Well said, prainva! And so true.

GSOE wrote: "I imagine sponsors like Pepsi, Comcast and whoever are feeling the pinch of this depressions right now too."

Yeah, if you consider a $772 million Q1 PROFIT to be "feelign the pinch of this depressions[sic]"

From the New York Times:

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable TV provider, reported a 6 percent increase in first-quarter earnings and said it gained more subscribers than expected.

Brian Roberts, the chief executive, says online viewing may not hurt cable subscriptions.

Comcast said that while some customers did pare back on buying pay-per-view programs and watched more free video on demand, its average revenue per subscriber still rose in the quarter.

Comcast reduced its capital spending and doubled its free cash flow to $1.37 billion in the first quarter, at a time when many companies are in a cash crisis and financing is hard to find.

The company, which is based in Philadelphia, earned $772 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with a profit of $732 million, or 24 cents a share, in the first quarter a year ago. Revenue rose 5 percent to $8.84 billion, from $ 8.39 billion a year ago.

The point is, there is a TON of corporate $ out there if somebody is willing to do the road work to pursue it. There are hundreds of profitable firms in Central Virginia. They just need one to write a relatively small check that, if they are half-smart, can turn into a PR good will bonanza.

I imagine sponsors like Pepsi, Comcast and whoever are feeling the pinch of this depressions right now too.

With these new Smart Phones, unlimited calling access and Internet access, a lot of people are giving up their $65 home Internet connections with Comcast. They are also giving up their landline phones as well.

And in an effort to save a few dollars myself, I switched to Kroger's Big K and stopped buying the Pepsi brand. They're $2+ dollars cheaper.

There are several season during the year. This is a tough sport, and to succeed as a ball player it requires a parent to work with the child. Is there a more desirable scenario then struggling with your child until they find competence. The lessons of baseball create bonds, strengthening the community. It is the only intercity field for this age group. Scholarships are already given to those needing assistance. To those who say there should be no public assistance, don't complain about the consequences of losing this worthwhile activity. I've got to get back to my video games then hang with my buddies on the corner.

The Board seems to be catering to the come-heres and retirees, who have no interest in actually being a part of the community they are crowding and ruining, just in making sure that they don't have to pay for anything. Night little league more than makes up for the cost of the lights in community involvement.

I Read the story on and agree the community will increase its efforts and donate the munds through funraisers and private contributions.That must be done.

People need to figure out the difference between NEEDS and WANTS, especially when times are tough.

We taxpayers need to pay for NEEDS, not WANTS.

If the kids WANT to play at night, the parents should step up and pay for it. Sell candy or magazines, have car washes, etc. Otherwise the kids can play in the daylight. At least they have a place to play. Tough economic times are going to inconvenience a lot of people. Get over it! That's life! Get your hand out of my pocket. Go our and earn funds to support your WANTS.

Paying for other peoples' WANTS around here is getting really OLD!

If YOU WANT something, YOU PAY FOR IT!


Why don't you spend an evening down a the ballpark before you decide if its a good investment or not to the county.

Hear! Hear! Angel Eyes
"...$15.38 per kid to have the lights stay on" That's the cost of the pizza the family devours after every game.
"I learned how to negotiate, compete, think on my feet, compromise, and have empathy on the ball field." I learned that playing with the kids in my neighborhood and it didn't cost anybody a dime. Where there's a will there's a way.
I wonder how many games does each child play during the season. It seems the season only lasts a few weeks.

Athletics are a great way to help kids. The county is spending 2.03 million dollars or $169,000 each for the 12 county residents they average swimming in the city pool daily. They are getting no new pool time for their money. The Lane League serves about 325 kids in their programs, that makes it about $15.38 per kid to have the lights stay on. The county has their priorities screwed up.

ââ?¬Å?The county is doing the right thing by not raising taxes, and cutting spending,” said Wilder, ââ?¬Å?but they are essentially asking us to ââ?¬Å?raise taxes” by increasing registration fees.” That one hour of play is going to keep a child from using meth? Now we all know the cure for meth addiction - Play ball!"
It is a sad dthing tht we have become so dependent upon Big Daddy Government, aka, tax payers' money. This is a good opportunity for a few people to grow up and take care of their own children's wants.
I'm willing to bet that Home Depot is willing to kick in the $5300. Actually, the taxes it pays should cover it. What, it is not welcome here?
The article should have included the number of children (potential meth heads according to webster 52) are in the league and how many teams.

I am certain that the community will step up and donate the funds necessary. This will be much better than the county paying bill for the lights. I am pro-baseball for kids and pro-fiscally sound government. If you use it, pay for it. I will send them a check to support youth baseball tomorrow. I encourage all guys who played as a kid to do the same.

how many county kids play at Lane Field? That's not a loaded question.

It's right in the middle of Charlottesville. Charlottesville is running a surplus while the county sends how much money each year directly to the city?

Clearly if any municipality should be paying the $5300, it is not the municipality that has a $10 million reduction in revenue, but the one that collected $18 million from the municipality with the shortfall.

The city has plenty of money. Lane field is in the city. The $5300 is a pittance compared to the $18 million the city collects.

Is the city able to do the right thing or not?

Hey Small minds, these parents do pay for it $85 reg. fee. In addition the work a concession stand, mow the lawn, rake the fields, pick up the trash and clean. Is it too much to ask the county to pay for utilities? If the league has to pay for the lights, the reg. fee will be over $100. All that does is prevent some kids from playing. The lights make economical sense because it allows 1 field to handle the workload of 2-3 fields.

We reported this story on five days ago with almost the SAME headline: "Lights out for Lane Babe Ruth League?"

Click the link below to further follow the story:

It's a sad day when the county has to shut down the lights on the Little League, but I had to laugh when Mr. Wilder said that the county did the right thing by not raising taxes. What did he expect? If the county taxpayers chose to elect representatives who refuse to raise property taxes, despite a drop in real estate assessed value, then of course the lights should go out or, as Music Lover stated, they had better get busy and start raising funds from the parents and/or corporate sponsors. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what will need to be cut in light of the budgetary problems Enjoy...

There are folks down at Lane volunteering 20+ hours/week to recruit team sponsors Such as Pepsi, Falcon Club, DAS,etc. along with sign sponsors and scoreboard sponsors. Please don't think for a second that the league is just sitting back waiting for a handout. The league has survived for generations and will continue to in the future. Unfortunately many kids will not be able to afford the registration fees. I would think that the county would be interested in matching funds raised privately for recreation opportunities. If not, why does the county even have a Parks and Rec department?

"The county is doing the right thing by not raising taxes, and cutting spending,” said Wilder, ââ?¬Å?but they are essentially asking us to ââ?¬Å?raise taxes” by increasing registration fees."

That's correct, Shannon Wilder. That's what happens when there's a tax cut, or when revenues do not meet budgetary needs. Something gets cut, requiring the entity on the receiving end to obtain the funds from another source if they want to continue delivering the service. You might want to pursue a corporate sponsorship for the lighting before you start charging the kids and their families. I'm willing to bet there's a company out there who can be convinced of the community value of paying for the electricity at Lane Field. Especially if you are willing to rename it Pepsi Field or Lane Field at Comcast Park or whatever.

"They are your kids, not ours" Nice outlook on the community Chicago Boy. I agree with you $5300 is not that much to raise in the grand scheme of things, but Tim love da kidz!

Why don't we just use glow in the dark baseballs and uniforms.

Maybe we could get some Hooters girls to serve refreshments and charge admission.

Either that or find out how much it would cost to replace the lights with ones that use less electricity. Maybe that is something that could pay for itself.

The baseball league is a good community investment and if they cancel it those kids might end up hanging out with a DIFFERENT CROWD. If just ONE of those kids were to get involved in meth he would cost the court system about twenty years of electricity.

The county should pay this year and split the cost next year and beyond.

I have to agree with Chicago Boy- raise your own money- don't take mine. On top of all of that, we elderly, and those who are childless, pay for schools where we (they) have no kids enrolled, and fund the state university system..........

We fund your parks, your buildings, your governemnt jobs- and what do we get? Not one thank you...............

The solution could have been 2-fold. Put the lights on when needed only and moniter their use and give Lane a 4 year period to fund by reducing the lighting 25% per year.

I learned how to read and write at school.

I learned how to negotiate, compete, think on my feet, compromise, and have empathy on the ball field.

There are a lot of grownups who need remedial baseball.

How about the power company taking a look? They have nothing to loose. I also wonder about the need for lights- "The boys of summer"- when it stay lighter later- hum, I wonder.

How about dividing $5300 by 200 and raise the money that way. That would be $26.50 each, divided by the number of games each plays- perhaps giving up the- I know that if I want to go golfing and they raise the greens fees, that I will find the way to cover it if I want to play.

Y'know, everything local governments pay for is worthwhile to somebody and people have spent lots of time in recent years dreaming up new worthy causes for the rest of to pay for. Megawatt lighting of numerous ball fields is probably something that should be cut for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons is it's a sybaritic indulgence to waste energy so people can see to play ball an hour or so later than otherwise. It's not just that one field, but all the local parks and school fields that are lit with expensive high output lights.
I grew up a while ago so my little league days were in the fifties, a time before we developed our current energy hog lifestyle. Very few people thought public funds should be spent to install tens of thousands of dollars worth of lights on every chump change ball field, not to mention paying the electric bill. And we played until it got too dark to see the ball, then we went home.

These types of athletic events should be limited to natural lighting. It's fiscally prudent and ecologically prudent.

"All that does is prevent some kids from playing." How many kids? Isn't this just conjecture? I don't expect an answer.

OK- how does a $100 fee to play baseball prevent anyone from playing baseball?

Let's see- if they were not playing baseball, at NIGHT, what else would they be doing with the add'l $15-20/summer?

Why does everyone call whatever money is spent on children having fund an "investment?"

again.......the math makes sense for the kids to pay for the lights that they probably don't need anyway.

Hey Dominion! Take a look...................