The Sports Alliance

Don McGann and Fred Narcaroti of the Oro Valley Sports Alliance at a recent practice for the Oro Valley Dolphins youth football teams at the Casas Church fields. The Sports Alliance played a role in bringing the perceived need for more sports fields to the attention of Oro Valley’s Town Council, and have since advocated for the passage of Proposition 454 to bring million of dollars in general obligation bond funds (paid by a property tax) into Naranja Park.

Emily Dieckman

As the political action and community discourse over the Naranja Park Bond question in Oro Valley continue, the Town continually reminds residents that the bond is being put to a vote as a result of community input.

Members of the Oro Valley Sports Alliance were responsible for much of this input. The collective of youth, adult and senior sports organizations formed earlier this year in order to advocate for the development and operations of new sports facilities in the town. Fred Narcaroti, business manager for the Oro Valley Dolphins and President of the Oro Valley sports alliance, along with other OVSA board members, decided that their voices would be more powerful if they spoke up as a group.

“We’ve tried to have a unified base coming together, instead of a bunch of different voices coming to town representatives as healthy athletic communities for tournaments,” Narcaroti said.

Narcaroti has been involved with the Dolphins for 12 years, serving as everything from the team’s secretary to their cheer coach. OVSA board member Don McGann coaches youth lacrosse in the Town and is also on the board of Oro Valley Lacrosse and Tucson Youth Lacrosse.  

Cost Prohibitive

Currently, the Oro Valley Dolphins practice at the the Amphitheater High School and Canyon Del Oro High School football fields, as well as the Casas Church Fields and James D. Kriegh Park. Without enough room for the 225 Dolphins to practice in the same area, there isn’t enough room for the group to host tournaments either. Tournaments for sports like baseball and lacrosse, the two men said, need at least four fields in the same area 

“Without that in Tucson, we drive 15 times a year up to Phoenix to participate,” Narcaroti said. “It’s really quite a lot to ask of parents [and] it becomes cost prohibitive for kids that do want to play within their own town.”

McGann and Narcaroti also said the cost of renting fields, especially school fields, has become cost prohibitive as rates have gone up.

There is a three hour minimum for renting fields in the Amphi district. For a football and track with lights, the fee is $50 per hour. Without lights, the fee is $25 per hour. According to James Burns, executive manager of operational support for Amphitheater Public Schools, a $10/hour fee is also charged for custodial staff to stock supplies, unlock and clean restrooms. The fee is $35/hour on the weekends. To mitigate costs, the Dolphins often bring their own port-a-potties and lights to practices. They own eight sets of generator-run lights (one of which is out of commission) and rent two more. 

School’s in Oro Valley’s Amphitheater District have a total of 31 fields (including practice fields) for baseball and softball, plus one for t-ball. There are 12 fields used for soccer, football or both.

In terms of public parks, James D. Kriegh has three baseball and two softball diamonds, Canada del Oro Riverfront has two softball diamonds and two multi-use fields and Naranja Park has four “extra large” multi-use fields.

The rates for Pima County Public Parks are lower. For example, a public field with lights is $15/hour and a youth league or nonprofit fields with lights are $7.50/hour.

The rental rates for public fields in Oro Valley parks vary by park and time of day (rates are more expensive during peak hours after 5 p.m.) During peak hours from 5 to 10 p.m., rates at James D. Kriegh Park and Naranja Park fields are $10/hour/field for residents.

Field Quality

The school fields that groups like the Dolphins practice on aren’t always well maintained, in part, McGann said, because school budget cuts have left schools less financially able to support outside groups like youth sports leagues. Narcaroti said there are safety concerns, including potholes on the playing fields. He estimated teams called the fire department over 20 times in the last year due to rattlesnake sightings. McGann keeps a shovel in the back of his truck to try and fill potholes at James D. Kriegh when he can, but outside groups are not allowed to do maintenance on school property due to liability issues.

“The drastic 90 percent reduction in capital and facilities maintenance funding we receive from the state over the past ten years has made it especially challenging to maintain and repair district facilities,” Burns said in an email. “The constant use of our fields by our own teams and other organizations also has a negative impact on their condition as we are not able to give them rest and they show increased wear.” 

Community groups who use Amphi’s fields include Amigos Baseball, the Marana Broncos, National Youth Sports, the Oro Valley Dolphins, Oro Valley Fast pitch softball, the Oro Valley Lacrosse Club, Oro Valley Little League, the Special Olympics and Xpress baseball.

Narcaroti and McGann emphasized that they are willing to pay to use fields (and, through the property tax, to construct them). The Dolphins hold multiple fundraisers a year. In their biggest, each athlete is responsible for selling ten tickets at $10 apiece.

“It’s not that nobody has skin in the game,” Narcaroti said. “We’re not against paying for fields, but it’s become so exorbitant.” 

Do it Once and Do it Right

Critics of the bond have suggested a pay-as-you go model that builds the field over a longer period of years without raising property taxes, but proponents of the bond feel that that’s impractical.

“If you put a million a year, in 15 years, that kid over there who’s five years old is never going to get to use it,” Narcaroti said.

He added that the value of the dollar will decrease with inflation, so spending $17 million dollars over a number of years won’t get the Town as much ‘bang for their buck’ as spending it now. Further, McGann argued, doing the project in phases means repeatedly demobilizing and  starting over.

“It’s like building a house,” he said. “You don’t build the rooms separately. It just doesn’t work as well.”

Taking into consideration the cost of taking the sand and gravel site that Naranja is today and creating infrastructure that ranges from lights to water lines to the bike paths to the Tangerine Road connection to the fields themselves, both men feel $17 million is a reasonable estimate. 

OVSA members, along with members of the Yes on 454 PAC, say they believe that having improved facilities will attract new residents and companies to the Town as well, by making it a more appealing place to live. McGann compared the investment to the Town’s Aquatic Center, widely considered a success. 

“You build a good facility, and it will get used,” he said.

(2) comments

NelimittotaxesOV

So to benefit less than 1000 sports program members OV Taxpayer get stuck with the bill! 1st propertu tax in history. ANother poorly budgeted expense. Creeping costs pushing tax burden higher! Soak the many to benefit of the few just like the failed Golf Course "great deal" that'e how Highermath works for the Council! Axe the Tax!!!!! VOTE NO.

sagan77

I think about why I moved to Oro Valley in the first place. Community!

We live in a wonderful town and our mayor is doing an awesome job. Take a drive through Tucson or anywhere else in Pima County. The roads are terrible, the police harass you, and in some areas, crime is pretty bad!!! Not in Oro Valley! Oro Valley residents have higher standards that define what makes us community. We have lots of walking paths, golf, nature trails, and water fountains to support an active lifestyle. We cannot rely on the state or federal government to bring joy into our community. This became clear to me recently when I walked into the post office to get a drink of water. I asked the postal worker where the water fountain is and he looked at me like I asked him for a million dollars. There’s no water fountain in the post office. Oro Valley residents know the importance of water fountains! Not the federal post office-–they are as out of touch with our community as the Axe the Tax political action committee. Oro Valley is not out of touch, as I can usually find a public water fountain just by walking in any direction for 10 minutes. This is a community taking care of itself. I go for a jog every day and I see nothing but smiling faces–-happy people, enjoying what God has given us.

This bond will build community. It will attract more families into our town, which will help us prosper! Our property values will rise! But more importantly, we will have a place for our children to come together and that will bring us together.

We need to stop with the divisive imagery. Nothing is more divisive than the picture of a weapon–-an Axe, hanging on the side of the road. I have to explain to my children why grown ups are hanging signs with axes on them. In fact, after explaining what this bond will do for our community, my son was eager to participate in its design! My children are looking forward to the opportunities this bond brings. My family is looking forward to opportunities to engage our community in meaningful ways!

I love Oro Valley and investing in this community–investing in its people, is the right thing to do

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