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Falls Little League's deal with district raises eyebrows

Some parents question deal in light of teacher cuts

A volunteer parent paints batters box lines at the Menomonee Falls Little League baseball complex. Parents are questioning a deal that allows the league to lease the fields for $1 per year in light of teach cuts.

A volunteer parent paints batters box lines at the Menomonee Falls Little League baseball complex. Parents are questioning a deal that allows the league to lease the fields for $1 per year in light of teach cuts. Photo By Mary Jo Walicki

July 26, 2011

Menomonee Falls - Dozens of families every summer go through the same tradition: Little League baseball game as the sun sets, ice cream afterward. In Menomonee Falls, games can be played close to home, keeping the community environment intact, thanks to an agreement with the school district to use the land.

In fact, Dairy Queen charges more for a dip cone than the district charges Menomonee Falls Little League. In 2006, the two sides reached a 10-year deal for $1 a year to use the 40-acres of baseball fields on the district's Mill Road property between Pilgrim and Lilly roads.

Those 40 acres have eight baseball diamonds and a T-ball diamond for use, while the other 40 acres owned by the district are actually leased and farmed according to the district's Building and Ground's Department Head Dwight Crouse.

League maintains fields

Crouse added that the district has no responsibilities in terms of upkeep to the land except to have the retention ponds inspected. Tasks like mowing the lawns and landscaping fall on the Little League group, which isn't directly affiliated with the school district.

A reporter's calls to Menomonee Falls Little League officials were not returned.

The district does, however, make some use of the fields for its own purposes. According to Athletic Director Dave Petroff, the Menomonee Falls High School girls softball team uses the fields during the playoffs due to WIAA regulations.

"(The) WIAA has a rule that postseason games have to played on fields with a certain distance to the fields," Petroff explained.

"Willowood doesn't meet those specifications."

Actually, according to Petroff, Willowood is considerably larger than the requirements meaning the girls play their postseason games - assuming they qualify - in a stadium with smaller dimensions than they're used to, a potential advantage as a hitter and detriment as a pitcher.

Why not ask for more?

Earlier in the spring, the issue of the field's nominal fee was brought up at a budget meeting for parents. Some were incensed that the district could be talking about cutting teachers when they're charging such a small fee for land that is obviously worth considerably more than $1 per year.

Business Director Jeff Gross explained to the crowd that these types of agreements were not uncommon and that even if the district wanted to turn the land into a money-maker, it could not do so until the contract was up.

In this case, that means the earliest such a plan could be considered is 2016.

Ask a coach, player or parent and they might tell you that the small price paid to enjoy sunset baseball and summer treats is a steal. Either way, for Menomonee Falls Little League, it's a home run.

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