By Sarah Richardson
The White Sulphur Springs City Council met on May 8 to a crowded audience of sports parents and their children, along with coaches and volunteers, intent on speaking out against the city’s decision to bid out the concession stands at the softball and football fields. The bid proposal also includes the concession stand at the municipal pool.
The concession stand at the ball fields has been run by the football team parents for the last several years, and before that both stands were bid out and run by one entity with a percentage of the proceeds going toward the city to help cover the costs of equipment in the stand, the electric bill, maintenance costs, etc.
Since the parents have been running the ball field concession stand, it has become a major source of relied-upon income for the football teams. Peter Bostic, president of the Falcon Football League, said that 114 kids participated in their program last year. He said that they provide an important resource for the kids from July through December with their sports program. He reported that proceeds from the concession stand make up 60 percent of their operating budget.
“We don’t charge the kids for anything,” said Bostic. “We sponsor pool parties, we sponsor the Punt, Pass, and Kick that is open to all the kids in the community, whether they are a football player or a cheerleader or not, it’s free. We give them food, and we do it all for free because of the proceeds coming from that concession stand.”
Speakers also said that out of 11 teams, White Sulphur’s youth football league is the only one that has no charge to participate.
Bostic said that they are at the fields Monday through Friday during the sports season and that the stand also doubles as the league’s medical station in the instance of heat stroke and for other heat protocols due to it being where they keep water and ice. “It’s where we stage everything up,” he said.
Other speakers voiced concerns that the financial strain will then fall onto the participating children’s parents, which may not be feasible for some families.
The city later commented that the decision to bid out both the ball field concession stand and the stand at the municipal pool stemmed from wanting a consistency in operation hours at both stands, and preventing ongoing staffing issues. Mayor Bowling said that they city is still unsure of what the hours of the operation will be to open the municipal pool due to staffing.
“What we ran into in the past, last year we got all brand new equipment, two years ago, actually. Some of it got hidden last year, we had to go find it to be able to open the pool. And in July, when the football team had some activities going on, they demanded that we bring the concession stand equipment from the pool down to them,” said Mayor Bruce Bowling. “We’ve got to share this, this is for everybody. Everybody owns that concession equipment, not just football, it’s for the whole town. So we are just trying to make it easier.”
Bowling also reported that the city has received complaints recently that the concession stands weren’t open, so the city was looking for a solution.
Parks and Recreation Councilperson Audrey Van Buren said, “It’s all because football did not clean the concession stand at the park [last year], that’s what it all boils down to. Football deserves it, softball deserves it, soccer deserves it, everyone deserves the use of the concession stand.”
Van Buren invited one representative from each sports team to meet with her to discuss options moving forward, and has volunteered to solve the issues with both concession stands with the community.
In other news:
• Councilperson G.P. Parker said that the garbage fund is in the negative by roughly $15,000, with Councilperson Mark Gillespie saying that landfill rates have increased, “almost double.” Parker recommended that the city increase their trash rates to keep up with the solid waste authority, but didn’t specify what that amount would be.
“It’s not us [the city] putting that forward,” explained Gillespie, “it’s the county landfill that has imposed that increase, not us.”
Councilmembers proposed to resume discussion of this matter in July, after the municipal election is held and new members are sworn in.
• Kathy Glover said that the Dandelion Festival is fast approaching, and that an exciting lineup of activities will be coming to the city including vendors, food, and shopping, and plenty of activities for the kids. The Dandelion Festival will be held on May 26-28.