Johnson City Sports Foundation to handle more duties for Cardinal Park

Gary B. Gray • May 2, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Johnson City’s Park and Recreation Department and the Johnson City Sports Foundation have drawn up a specific, 34-point list of pre- and post-game duties at Cardinal Park of which the foundation has agreed for the first time to handle about one-third.

Foundation President Lee Sowers said the nonprofit organization will hire two new employees to perform the tasks to offset increasing costs incurred by Parks and Recreation over the years. Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl, who was overseeing the department last year, has informed the City Commission that costs were rising and a substantial increase in the city’s $100 per game fee was needed to maintain quality maintenance at Cardinal Park.

The agreement with the city calls for the foundation to pay a facility user fee of $100 per each home game played at Cardinal Park, or $3,400 for all of the Appalachian League team’s 34 home games. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board had asked commissioners for $420 per game, or $14,280 a season.

Long before Parks and Recreation Director Roger Blakeley, who started his job here in late October, and Sowers, who started in January, had a chance to chat, increased fees for maintaining Cardinal Park and its Appalachian League 2010 and 2011 champs were on the table.

On April 26, Blakeley and Sowers signed the memorandum of understanding. The two-page document, as previously stated, is simply a list of responsibilities. To be exact, Parks and Recreation will handle 22 responsibilities; the foundation will be responsible for 12.

Parks and Recreation will do more on the preparation side, such as chalking the foul lines, checking fencing, gates and other structures, cleaning rest rooms, hosing down the bleachers, checking the scoreboard and other duties.

Foundation employees will concern themselves more with pre- and post-game activities, such as dragging the infield, removing bases, repairing the pitcher’s mound, returning tools and literally turning off the lights at night.

Blakeley confirmed the agreement is still in place and the memorandum of understanding helps the department maximize its investment, but it looks like there will not be an agreement renewal until September, after this season.

“The city has put a fair amount of money into that facility,” he said. “Mr. Sowers came in in January, and I’ve been here for six months. I’ve been able to open up some dialogue with Lee — dialogue that probably has been needed for some time. As we move forward, I think we’ll be able to anticipate where we’re at much more specifically.”

Sowers said the foundation and Johnson City are still operating under the original agreement signed at the end of 2003. Once this season is over, the two entities will sit down at the table and come up with a new agreement.

“The foundation is taking over some of the duties, and they will be handled by General Manager Chuck Arnold,” Sowers said. “We don’t have our specific cost to do this, but what we’re taking over reduces overall maintenance costs by several thousand dollars. That’s our contribution for the 2012 season. Everything else is rolling along out there.”

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