Future of Covington Adult Softball Leagues in Doubt
A fight to save adult softball leagues in Covington came to light Tuesday night at City Hall. Multiple participants in the city's seasonal adult softball leagues attended the city commission meeting and took to the podium during the public comments portion, asking for answers on why the leagues would be discontinued.
Lee Griffin, who said that he has played at the Bill Cappel Sports Complex for thirty-eight years, spoke on behalf of the adult softball players. Noting that there had been complaints about the adult leagues from the Knothole youth baseball league that also uses the five fields at the complex, Griffin said that there were many misconceptions about the charges which included the use of prohibited alcoholic beverages and urination in the dugouts. "How can we fix an issue if all of a sudden we hear there won't be any leagues? I don't know why we weren't informed," Griffin said.
He said there are no signs posted about not bringing glass on the premises and that the only sign informing visitors not to bring alcohol is very small.
The City of Covington's recreation department sent letters to the softball league's coaches in early December explaining their decision to discontinue adult leagues. The letter noted a steady decline in the number of teams and the increase in costs to maintain the fields as well as the complaints of alcohol use, glass bottles, and urine. "The City takes pride in providing safe, accessible and clean places to play and these issues negatively impact our green spaces," the letter said.
The fields, at 43rd & Decoursey in Latonia, are also used by Holmes, Holy Cross, and Covington Latin High Schools in addition to the Knothole District 28 league which all have shared-maintenance agreements with the city. Those agreements have been updated to include a decrease in the usage of lights on the field. The adult softball league has no agreement, though Griffin said they were supportive of creating one. "We don't need lights," he said. "No other fields supply balls and score books, the fees haven't been raised in a while. I hate to see it happen but what do we have to do?"
Natalie Gardner, manager of programs and special projects at City Hall, explained that each field is in need of replacement, a process that can only be accomplished one field at a time at a rate of one per year. One field is mounted and cannot be used for softball. "Many years ago we literally had softball every night. The fields were being used seven days a week from dusk till dawn,"Gardner said. "We're paying the price for that now." Additionally, the fields sit on top of a former landfill.
The city agreed with Griffin that the adult leagues, which he said have forty-one teams, bring in roughly $16,000, but not enough to continue the leagues. "Please know that this decision was difficult but necessary. We analyzed multiple options and have decided on this course of action. The City thanks you for your dedication and loyalty to the Covington Adult Softball League over these past decades," the December letter said.
Griffin also argued that the loss of the leagues would translate to a loss of businesses in Latonia. "There's eight hundred to a thousand people that come through Latonia Tuesdays through Thursdays," Griffin said. "Those businesses are going to lose business."
The news of the cancelation of softball leagues seemed to catch some members of the new city commission by surprise. For three of the five members, Tuesday night marked their first official meeting of the new term. "We have a long tradition of softball in Covington," said Commissioner Chuck Eilerman, who's serving his first term. "I would hope we could look at this more closely and find a way to maintain it." Commissioner Steve Frank also said that he would like to revisit the issue.
Mayor Sherry Carran said she was open to continuing the conversation. "We have a limited supply (of fields) and more and more people wanting to use them," she said. "We will sit down and we will review it again."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: Bill Cappel Sports Complex/City of Covington