PAOLA — It is an exciting time to be part of Paola Youth Sports.
Summer baseball, and softball, under the new umbrella of Paola Youth Sports grew in numbers for T-Ball, Minors and Majors and Babe Ruth.
The roster leagues also had another great season with games played at the new turf district fields by Sunflower Elementary School.
Renovations are happening at Wallace Park with the addition of fields for baseball and softball.
The city of Paola took ownership of the ballfields at Wallace Park. Justin Smail, Scott Golubski and Jace Kirk made a presentation to the Paola City Council during a work session in June to have a portion of the city’s half-cent sales tax be designated for improvements and maintenance of the facilities.
Fees were cut in half to make the summer leagues more affordable. Nine new teams were created this summer as numbers increased from 333 participants to 441.
All-star teams were also back.
“To me, there was nothing as exciting as working hard to make that all-star baseball team and go out and represent Paola,” Smail said. “I remember as a kid that was a big deal.”
Paola Youth Sports brought all-stars back for the ballplayers to have that experience, Smail said. There are plans to expand the all-star events next summer.
Paola Youth Sports also started introducing “league practices,” for all boys and girls 10-year-old and under teams. Coaches from Paola High School have helped with instruction of the boys and girls and the coaches at the league practices.
The fields themselves remain an issue, as well as flooding. To address these issues, Paola Youth Sports has created a two-phase plan.
The plan involves reducing the size of Russell Field and building two other fields in the current left field and center field area of Russell Field. Phase one includes building a tee-ball-size field in left field, and phase two includes building a 10-and-under-size field in center field.
No official decision was made, but council members said if the city’s half-cent sales tax is renewed by voters in November for park improvements, the ballfields could get a portion of that revenue.
Smail said Paola Youth Sports is moving the softball and baseball fields closer together to get more exposure.
“We are looking at having games down there five nights a week and making it an experience,” he said. “We want to make our ballfields a destination and we are giving kids opportunities right here in town where they don’t have to travel to the city.”
The vote in November is going to be a big one for Paola Youth Sports in Paola, Smail said, as well as the pool and the parks.
“It is not an additional tax,” Smail said. “It is a renewal of a tax that is already there.
“I guarantee you, if it passes, the people in this community are going to drive by Wallace Park and be proud of it,” he said.
Paola Youth Sports has the ball rolling in the right direction, Smail said. It is not just the board getting behind the improvements, it is the community.
“A lot of times the weight of things falls on the board, but we have had great support from the community,” Smail said. “When we put out a call that we need help, we have a lot of people come out.
“To me, as a small business owner, there is nothing quite as exciting as seeing your name on the uniforms,” he said.