An adult softball tournament that is set for Feb. 18 at the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex (EUCRC) will kick off the busy season in a string of tournaments and other sports events that have already been scheduled at the facility through June.
And with a total of 39 playable weekends available, the EUCRC board of directors and the complex manager, the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, are hoping to book more baseball, softball and soccer tournaments at the complex before the end of the year.
During a regular EUCRC board meeting on Feb. 3, David Lee, executive director of the BGCE, told board members that the club is working to schedule at least four more softball tournaments in 2023.
To help the season move along seamlessly, Lee sought guidance and clarification from board members about issues regarding scheduling and fees among the various leagues and teams who practice and play at the complex.
The conversation began after Bill Evans, director of the Union County Co-Ed Church Softball League, presented the league's weekly, Friday-night schedule of regular season games that begin next month and will end with a post-season tournament on June 22 - 23.
Evans said the group, which has played at the complex since the facility opened in 1985, could possibly host a pre-season tournament on March 10 - 11, a week ahead of its first regular-season game on March 17.
"We do our own scheduling and get our own umpires and scorekeepers. All we're looking for is a place to play," Evans told board members.
He said he is often asked why the league plays on Friday, explaining that the complex is booked during the rest of the week with league and tournament play, particularly for youth teams.
Greg Harrison, chairman of the EUCRC board, noted that a few teams have asked not to play on Sunday.
Evans said the church league did not play in 2020 due to the temporary closure of the complex due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the league has typically averaged 16 - 18 teams -- the most for one season was 21 in 2012 -- who play about 15 weeks per year.
However, the league is undergoing a transitional period and has not yet pulled back all of the teams that participated prior to 2020.
In 2021, only six teams signed up and the season was shortened to nine weeks.
For the past three years, the EUCRC board has agreed to waive league fees to help assist the co-ed church league through such challenges.
League fees were also waived last year for a startup high school baseball program at West Side Christian School.
"I think it's a good thing. It's our local churches and they pay for their own umpires and scorekeepers," board member Keith Smith, himself a tournament director, said.
Evans added that the church league also pays for the balls it uses.
"We do plan to host a state tournament again this year. If a (tournament) contractor calls for Friday night, they want to start on Friday night, what do I do? What's my plan?" Lee asked.
Harrison and Smith advised Lee to reach out to Evans and try to work out an alternative plan to fulfill church league games, saying that consideration should be given to "the paying customer."
Harrison again pointed out that the $500 league fee has not been levied for the church league for the past three years and he offered to use his business, Harrison Financial Management, to sponsor the league this year.
Lee posed another question for board members, asking "What are the parameters for charging a league fee and who gets charged a league fee and who doesn't? I just need to know the policy."
For instance, he asked, if a team plays only four games at the complex, "do I charge them $500?"
The group pointed to SouthArk's baseball and softball teams who play at the complex, per a use-agreement with the complex, as an example of teams that are charged a league fee.
As hypothetical scenario, Harrison noted if the teams play 50 games per season and half are home games, the home game will bring in out-of-towners who stay in local hotels and spend money in restaurants and other businesses.
"Keith Smith does 25, 30 games, as well, and he pays a league fee," said Harrison.
Board members said space has also gotten tight for practices and scrimmages at the complex, with several teams vying for Field 4, the School Boy Rowe field.
The field is used by SouthArk and Harrison said other teams including a baseball team made up of junior-high school-age players, West Side Christian, the American Legion and at times during inclement weather, the El Dorado High School baseball team, all want to use the School Boy Rowe field for practice.
Harrison said there have been reports of at least one team claiming exclusive rights to the field.
"Nobody has exclusive rights to any field out there. We charge $50 for a team and $500 for a league. If you want to have a league, you can get four or five teams together and put the money in," said Harrison.