A group recently appointed to explore development of new sports facilities or improving existing ones in Mount Airy has identified no specific projects so far, but knows one thing: it must raise money.
“And I hate to say this, I don’t think we’re going to do it selling hot dogs,” said Scott Graham of the city board of commissioners, who also is serving on the new seven-member Sports Facilities Commission.
Graham explained that any meaningful projects it undertakes will come with price tags attached, and said one of the first orders of business for the commission will be identifying funding sources.
The Sports Facilities Commission held its first meeting Tuesday afternoon in the Municipal Building, and tried to chart a direction for its efforts. Along with municipal government members, including Graham and fellow Commissioner Jon Cawley, the city parks and recreation division and Mount Airy schools are represented on the commission along with citizens at large.
Keith Venable was chosen as its chairman.
Right off the bat, members indicated that the commission will operate differently than another sports-oriented group in the city which was spearheaded by a former city commissioner, Todd Harris. It was dissolved with the formation of the new one. Harris’ commission mainly focused on developing a multi-field complex to attract major softball or other tournaments.
“We’re going to concentrate our efforts on sports facilities,” Graham stressed Tuesday, “for all sports, not one sport in particular.”
Graham said fields or other facilities targeted do not need to be city government-owned or controlled by the school system — just benefit the public. “But in order to do any of that, we have to raise money.”
With taxpayer funding tight these days, the new commission is aimed at supplementing what city government and other entities are able to provide. It will operate in a manner similar to the Reeves Community Center Foundation, a fundraising arm of that facility, and Friends of the Mount Airy Police Department, according to Tuesday’s discussion.
Such entities are able to meet equipment or other needs not provided through normal channels, yet can operate independently.
Though the community center is a municipal government operation, “the Reeves foundation is totally separate from the city,” Darren Lewis, assistant city recreation director, said of that example. The RCC foundation has its own five-member board, added Lewis, who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
One of the goals of the Sports Facilities Commission is to gain non-profit status, which will allow it to solicit tax-deductible contributions as part of its fundraising efforts.
Otherwise, the commission hopes to explore grant funding, with Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander mentioning that there are various sources such a group can explore.
Bryan Taylor, assistant superintendent of city schools — another commission member — also said Tuesday that professional leagues have programs available to expand access to their sports by low-income youths. Taylor said this might constitute another funding avenue for the new group along with measures he said would represent thinking “outside the box.”
One possibility he cited was selling naming rights for local facilities.
Another issue dealt with Tuesday involved possible interference with the money-raising and additional activities of existing organizations such as the Mount Airy Youth Foundation. Its mission includes aiding the sports programs at the city’s high school.
However, City Manager Barbara Jones, who also was at Tuesday’s meeting, said she sees the new commission functioning as a partner, not competitor, with other organizations trying to accomplish the same purposes — “just an enhancement.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.