Stacey Howard's 5-year-old son Chandler is heading to Disney World next week with the rest of his family. Actually, Chandler would rather stay in Spokane, because his indoor soccer team has a game that weekend, and, as he puts it, "my team needs me."
This is Chandler's first quarter playing at Spokane Youth Sports Association's indoor center on Regal and 55th Avenue, but it's also bound to be the last, since the indoor center will close its doors for good at the beginning of March.
"It's a pretty sad deal," says Frayne McAtee, SYSA's interim assistant executive officer. "Many of the parents who used to bring their kids down here have gone to the new indoor center in the Valley. We were hoping to make the center break even, but after the new center opened, we've had a six-figure loss every year." McAtee won't say exactly how big a loss the center is operating with, but as far as he knows, closing it is a done deal.
And being presented with a done deal is exactly what's upsetting parents at the facility. There have been no letters sent out to the kids or their coaches, explaining the center's fiscal trouble, and many parents say they were kept in the dark about SYSA's decision until it was simply too late.
"I don't remember seeing any posters," says Howard. "I have gone to the center several times since last April to ask what I can do and what parents can do to help out, but was never told anything." Howard was at Saturday's games handing out fliers and drumming up support for the center, and she says she has a whole clipboard full of parents ready to help out with fund-raisers.
"I'd heard rumors about the center closing last year, so my continued question became, 'What's being done?' " says Howard. "Prices were never raised, grants could have been written for and concession prices could have gone up, but none of that was done."
SYSA maintains there was an attempt to reach parents last summer, but no one responded.
The building, which used to be a roller skate rink, was turned into an indoor soccer facility 14 years ago, and water damage as well as wear and tear on carpets, turf and furniture is beginning to take its toll. Many league teams have left the facility, which is what's hurting the most financially.
"I'm heartbroken that the center is closing, but it truly is a financial decision," says Peggy Best, the center's manager for the last 14 years. "I do the budgets, so I know what the numbers look like."
SYSA's new executive director Don Garves appears to be interested -- if not in keeping the center open -- then at least in listening to the parents.
"In 13 out of 14 years, [the center] has lost money, and we are at a point where we don't want to jeopardize any of our other programs.
"We'll invite a group of parents to our next board meeting, and we'll show them the numbers," Graves continues. "The parents' concerns are not going to go unnoticed, we'll listen to them and talk about it, and we are open to other solutions." SYSA doesn't own another indoor facility, and Graves says the organization doesn't own any property on which to build a new facility either, but may consider joining forces with other youth groups.
Howard is just disappointed that it seems like parents were not allowed to help out at all.
"There is plenty of support for the center, it's just easier to close it, because they've let it go too far. I've never said they are hiding anything, but I am questioning their willingness to look for a different solution."