BY JAMES HARPER
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry said he thinks the city should not be charging the Daytona Beach Pop Warner Association a usage fee to practice and compete on the fields at Derbyshire Park.
For the first time, the football and cheerleading program was charged last year. Had it not been for former Mayor Glenn Ritchey offering to pay the fee out of his pocket, hundreds of kids would not have had a program to participate. Ritchey owns several car dealerships.
This year, Henry has offered some of the proceeds from his charity golf tournament to help Pop Warner pay the fees. But as of this week, he is not guaranteeing proceeds from the golf tournament will cover all the fees the city is charging.
Fee to practice, play
The Pop Warner program is subject to a daily $75 fee for the use of each field at Derbyshire. Needing four fields, the daily total would reach $300 for just a practice day. Game days would cost the league $400. Each team plays a minimum of five games.
“I can’t promise that all the expenses will be paid to use city property for the teams to practice and play. I don’t know what was raised yet (during the golf tournament last month),” Henry said.
He also added that he hopes the league will be able to practice on the fields at one of the area schools because of an agreement the city has with Volusia County Schools, which means less money the Pop Warner program will have to pay the city.
“Other teams practice with the Volusia County Schools system. We have an inter-goverment agreement with the school board,” Henry noted. He added that Pop Warner may be able to use Municipal Stadium at a discounted rate.
Henry also said he wants to figure out a way the city can partner with the Pop Warner organization so it doesn’t have to pay the fees to practice and play on city-owned property.
“We should work to alleviate or reduce fees to something manageable. I don’t like the current policy,” Henry remarked. “I consider it (Pop Warner) an asset in our community – to work with Pop Warner to take care of our kids.’’
Pop Warner Commissioner Thomas Roland is worried that without the program “taking care of these kids, the police chief is going to be taking care of them.”
Started locally in 1998
Daytona Beach Youth Football and Cheerleader Association is a Pop Warner Association started in 1998 and is dedicated to youth football and cheerleading for children ages 5 to 15. There are six divisions: Tiny Mites, Mitey Mites, Junior Peewee, Peewee, Junior Midgets and Midgets.
Pop Warner strives to inspire young athletes and stress the importance of scholarship, teamwork, sportsmanship and citizenship, according to their website.
Daytona Beach’s Pop Warner was started 16 years ago by retired NFL star Wes Chandler. When he moved from the state, the program was continued by Harvey Porter, then Glenn Barnes and current commissioner Roland.
Fees pay city staff
Last July, Roland went before the commission (before Henry was mayor) asking for help after he learned about the change in policy, which would require the organization to pay a fee to practice and play.
Leisure Services Director Percy Williamson told the Daytona Times this week that the decision to charge the fee became necessary for budgetary reasons so the city is able to pay staff to keep up, fertilize and maintain the areas where the teams play.
Williamson acknowledged that in past years Pop Warner did not pay anything.
“The city is not in a position to do that anymore. We will always try to assist them. Control of concession has been given to them,” Williamson said.
Williamson said he informed Roland that Pop Warner needs to go out and get sponsors to help pay the fees.
“Pop Warner teaches these kids teamwork, conflict resolution and hard work. Mentors make sure they do what they are supposed to do. I can’t think of a better organization for businesses to want to sponsor,” Williamson said.
Relying on parents
Roland said getting sponsors is easier said than done.
“I went to every business in our neighborhood. Not one person gave up money. If parents didn’t pay the registration fee, we wouldn’t survive,” Roland remarked.
Roland said he wants to work with the city to resolve the problem so there won’t be a fee for kids to practice and play on city property, particularly at Derbyshire Park.
“We don’t want to have to go through this year after year,” he said, adding that neither Henry nor Williamson has confirmed to him that they have worked out a way to make sure the fees get paid this year.
Roland said his team is known as the Daytona Beach Buccaneers. There are two other teams in the city – the Daytona Falcons and the Daytona Hurricanes.
$175 per participant
If the Daytona Beach Pop Warner teams are not able to play this year, Roland said kids who have been participating in the program since 1998 will have to register with Pop Warner teams in Port Orange or Ormond.
Each Pop Warner participant, including players and cheerleaders are charged $175 each, which covers their equipment, uniforms and their participation in the organization’s mentoring and tutoring programs.
As far as them making money off concessions, Roland said, “We can’t count on that money (to help pay city fees).”
What money is made from concessions is used to pay officials and umpires, he said. Costs for officials can add up $1,200 a week.
Roland said the city also wants to charge Pop Warner to use a building to tutor the kids, which is another fee he says the organization cannot afford to pay.
Roland said he and the coaches are all volunteers. They never know how many kids are going to register from year to year. During past registrations, the turnout number has always been around 200, he noted.
He also is worried that if the program has to go up on the registration fee in order to pay the city a usage fee, fewer kids will sign up.
Roland said he has to know by next month if the city or Henry will be able to help out or if area businesses will come through with donations.
Schedules have to be set in May for the teams to play in August.
“We are the only city that makes our kids pay for everything. Parents work but kids don’t work. The city wants to take credit when we make playoffs, but they don’t want to waive fees to use their property,” Roland commented.
“I don’t get paid for this. I’ve been with program for 20 years and have never taken a salary; I even pay for my own gas,” said Roland, adding that any money they receive from sponsors or others goes back into the program.
The Pop Warner program currently runs from August to November.
Roland said he would like to see the program operate year round so they can tutor and mentor the kids while they are in school. Without a permanent building, they are not able to do this.
The Daytona program’s mission is “to provide children in the community with positive reinforcement, building character, and molding the minds of children so they can become positive contributors in a democratic society.’’
Roland added, “Kids are always on the back burner. They are the future of the world. They need to know somebody cares about them.’’