BOE should keep Kugler Field

Published 1:04 am Tuesday, July 26, 2011

To the Editor:

After reading Bartow Houston’s article in the WDN on July 19, I talked to friends and we recalled some of our favorite memories from playing at Kugler Field. We talked about ending Washington High School’s 22-year absence from the state playoffs in 1988 and playing the last high-school football season at Kugler Field in 1989. Bartow’s article accomplishes its intent — to remind us that Kugler Field is a special place for many people. I called Bartow intending to discuss the part of the article providing that “It just seems – if I’m wrong here, please let me know – that transferring ownership of Kugler Field to the city would make sense.” It became clear to me that he raised an issue that needs to be addressed.

The director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Washington announced in 2006 that the city would not provide a youth football program. Walt Gerard and I were among the few in the meeting, and, in response to the city dropping youth football, we formed the Washington Youth Football League. We received a white-knuckle education in operating a youth football program, and our sponsors and volunteers are helping the WYFL build upon the success of all the volunteers and organizations that provided youth football in the past. Kugler Field is the headquarters for the WYFL from August to March of each year. The city has access to Kugler Field for the remainder of the year.

For a time, the WYFL paid the city a $25 user fee per participant. Then the WYFL learned that the city had no possessory interest in Kugler, so we entered a 10-year use agreement with the actual owner, the Beaufort County Board of Education. I understand that some city officials were not pleased (to say the least) when the city received a copy of the use agreement between the WYFL and BOE. Here we are two years later with the city plotting to take Kugler Field.

Despite having some dedicated and talented employees within its Parks and Recreation Department, the city has been entirely absent in providing youth sports in recent years. Many people have not yet realized that youth soccer, football, basketball, baseball and softball leagues in Washington are operated by nonprofit organizations. The city provides no youth sports programs, but it has collected user fees from children playing sports at public facilities. As of recently, however, there is no direct revenue to be gained by the city through ownership of Kugler Field because the city recently waived its user fees.

The Kugler family conveyed Kugler Field for the primary purpose of providing an athletic field for the youth, particularly school children. The Board of Education has been a good steward of Kugler Field and cooperative partner with the WYFL in making sure the facility is used for the purposes it was intended. Please share the reason the city is so focused on taking Kugler Field from the BOE.