The Greater Cleveland Athletic Association will apply for $134,000 in open space funds to be released by Johnston County this year to address what it regards as major safety concerns it can’t afford to fix itself.
The youth sports league serves more than 1,500 children who occupy more than 3,000 roster spots in different sports. It hopes to replace some aging, rotting wooden light poles, replace a gym roof and repave the heavily pot-holed driveway around the gym.
“Need-wise, these are fairly big ticket items,” GCAA president Carlos Womack said. “The only way we can do it is raise entrance fees for our sports and that’s the last thing we want to do.”
The GCAA charges $100 to play on a team in its league. The county owns the fields and gym but lets the league use them for essentially free.
The organization would have to provide a match of at least 5 percent of the project; the GCAA has pledged $7,500 in matching funds, which its application claims would be available immediately.
The old Cleveland High School Gym roof presents the largest cost and perhaps the most compelling case.
“When we do get a hard rain, a lot of water gets on the floor. Basically, in certain spots it gets so bad we can’t play in there,” Womack said, noting that repairing water damages adds further expense.
He also said the light poles “could fall at any time” and that while the driveway around the gym presented less of a hazard, it did add wear and tear to any car regularly driving over it.
About $230,000 of the open space funds available in Johnston County will go to the Cleveland area, and parent volunteer and attorney Jonathan Breeden said he didn’t know of any other organization in the area that would qualify. The open space fund is a dedicated pot into which developers pay a fee if they don’t create a given amount of park space.
Breeden, whose son plays T-ball at GCAA, had requested the Johnston County Commissioners open up open-space funding at an April meeting. The state legislature had loosened requirements and the commissioners decided to allow groups to apply for a pot that had risen to about $1 million.
“This is not going to be easy, this is a lot of money and this is a really conservative bunch of folks,” Breeden said. “(Commissioner) Cookie Pope says she’s got our back. I hope that she will. We just need to get this for the community.”
Womack said he had been grateful that the county had received money from a bond to improve the gym with a walking trail and create consession stands.
“The county has always treated us well,” Womack said. “We’ve shown in the past that we can be good stewards of the money they entrusted to us.”