Youth football seeks lighted field partnership

by Jim Boyle

Editor

Elk River Youth Football has asked the city of Elk River to partner on a 100-yard playing field its league president says is “desperately” needed.

Todd Raymakers, the president of the nonprofit organization focusing on youth development through the teaching of football fundamentals, made the plea for a lighted field to the Elk River Park and Recreation Commission at its last regular meeting of the year.

He expressed urgency for action because of the time it would take for a field to set up. He said the association has been saving money toward such an initiative, and at least one other youth organization (lacrosse) has been saving funds, too.

The program has access to one lighted 100-yard football field at the Youth Athletic Complex. Youth football, youth soccer and lacrosse all use the field.

“It’s well maintained, but its starting to show its wear,” Raymakers said.

Metro-area participation in youth football has dipped as much 20 percent due to the mounting concern over concussions in the sport, but in Elk River the numbers only dropped about 6 percent.

More than 430 youth took part this past season, and Raymakers and others in his organization say they expect about 5 percent growth annually in the coming years.

Soccer has grown in popularity over the years, and any decreases are due in part to migration of players to lacrosse that also uses the YAC.

Meanwhile, Spectrum Charter School is planning to add fields of its own this year but it doesn’t see a lighted field in the near future for itself. It will likely use its fields rather heavily up until dark during the week, according to Michael Hecker, the director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Elk River.

For some perspective, Raymakers told Park and Rec commissioners at the Dec. 13 meeting that Elk River’s youth football program is bigger than both Rogers and the Osseo-Maple Grove program. Rogers, however, has three 100-yard fields and Maple Grove-Osseo has four to Elk River’s one. Most of them are lighted, too.

“And we’re bigger than both,” Raymakers said.

It’s estimated a lighted 100-yard field would cost about $60,000 for the field and $140,000 for lights.

Raymakers said the youth football association has about $20,000 set aside and could muster at least $5,000 a year to pay back a loan over a period of five years or so.

“Anything that could be done to help us out would be appreciated,” Raymakers said.

Hecker told the Star News this week the football program’s request to partner with the city on a new football field sounds intriguing. He said the plan is to work with all of the youth organizations to see if something could come of it.

Elk River Mayor John Dietz asked at the meeting about sharing Spectrum’s new field, noting they were amenable to that.

They are, but without lights access to the field would be limited to weekends, Raymakers said, noting that’s not a high demand time frame for the YAC field.

Hecker said from his conversations with a Spectrum official, lights are not a high priority right now, and they will likely be looking for a source of funding and partnership, too.

Hecker said it will help the Elk River community now that Spectrum won’t be using city fields anymore, but that’s of little consolation to Raymakers.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” he said.

Hecker told Mayor Dietz and park commissioners it would be a good time to look for grants for such improvements.

Dave Anderson, the chair of the Elk River Park and Recreation Commission, told Raymakers he appreciated him coming to give the commission a nudge. He recalled Elk River Youth Softball running into a similar problem and how it was resolved with a loan that was paid off by the association over a period of years.

“I take your commitment as sincere,” Anderson said.

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