By Chris Eversole
Youth sports in Mustang are growing faster than city government can build ballfields for them.
The high demand led to a lottery to allocate practice fields being used for the first time this year for the 100 baseball teams and 46 softball teams.
Some residents complained about the allocation to city council and asked it to move faster on installing lights.
“The high demand is a great problem to have,” said Assistant City Manager Justin Battles.
“It’s good that there’s so much interest among kids and so many volunteers step forward as coaches and in other roles,”
Mustang Youth Sports – a nonprofit group that coordinates many baseball and softball teams – instituted a lottery for practice fields this year.
Demand is highest for T-ball, a sport for kids starting at age 4 in which they hit the ball from a stand.
“If I had another dozen practice fields, I probably could fill them,” said John Robinson, the Mustang Youth Sports coordinator.
After the lottery, the use of Old City Park, located in a neighborhood off Mustang Road south of a Mustang Public Schools complex, became an issue.
Jack and Wendy Howard, who coordinate baseball and softball teams for youths 10 and older, complained at the March 5 city council meeting that the city has excluded their teams from Old City Park.
The council asked Battles to work with the Howards on addressing their concerns.
He prepared an email to them, and then met with them March 12.
The reason the older teams currently aren’t given practice times at Old City Park is that neighbors have complained about balls hitting their homes and windows, Battles said.
“It works well for T-ball because the kids don’t hit the ball far,” he said.
The city administration will reconsider the policy regarding Old City Park for practices that begin in June, Battles added.
The city maintains only four practice fields – the one at Old City Park, one at Dowden Park (located on S. Czech Hall Road) and two at Curtis Park (located on Mustang Road near the Mustang Round Up Club).
The Howards also volunteered to help light a ballfield, and they said an electrician had given them a quote of $40,000 for the project.
Battles said he appreciated the estimate but noted that the city has a high standard – involving metal rather than wood poles – that puts the cost of lighting one field at $125,000. The city has budgeted lighting the two fields at Curtis Park during 2021, Battles noted.
At a council workshop Tuesday, Councilman Travis McKenzie said the Howards were satisfied with the response from Battles.
For his part, Battles noted that the city was slow in telling teams about the changes in practice field arrangements.
“Communications could have been a lot better,” he said.
Mustang has an extensive group of playing fields at Wild Horse Park, but demand is so high that the baseball and softball fields are used only for games, Battles noted.
The Wild Horse Park fields include six for baseball, five for softball, four for soccer and two for football.
This year, the city will install new lights to replace outdated ones at the football fields.
“Because of the shortage of fields, we encourage groups that want more practice time to ask churches and schools to help,” Battles said.