No Field of Dreams for Gosnell Youth Association

March 2, 2006 – Posted at 5:25 p.m. CST

GOSNELL, AR -- Damaged property, graffiti and trash has led the Gosnell School District to deny the use of its baseball fields to a local youth league.

Both sides are quick to defend their stance. The school district has received reports of fighting, vandalism, and smoking on school grounds over the summer during league baseball games. The Gosnell Youth Association denies these allegations and feels entitled to the fields based on an agreement made back in 1984.

"I respect the decision that previous school leaders made, but times change and programs change each year. I review programs and this program is not performing in a way I can support," said Gosnell Superintendent Stan Williams.

Monday night the Gosnell school superintendent made the decision to not allow the Gosnell Youth Association to use the district's baseball fields. It's a move that surprised the Association who have used the fields for over 30 years.

"I was told by a school board member that they had no intentions of shutting us down and to go ahead and pass out the forms," said Lisa Holifield, commissioner of the Gosnell Youth Association.

"The school board totally supports my decision," said Williams.

According to the Youth Association, without baseball fields, some 200 Gosnell kids could go without baseball this summer. It's something the school district feels is causing too much trouble and too much damage to school fields.

"It cost the Gosnell School District $1,092 dollars for field lights last summer," said Williams.

In addition, Williams says the league has had several fights, vandalized school grounds, and doesn't clean up after games. Crimes that the Youth Association say were not their doing.

"I clean up every night when I leave there.  I have had people that help me. We have been up there before and had Blytheville teams practicing up there because it is a public school. They practiced, left there trash and I have picked up after them," said Holifield.

Holifield did acknowledge that a fight broke out during one game last summer, but the league came up with a code of ethics to ensure events like that didn't happen again.

"I was told that if we made an action plan addressing all of the issues that (Williams) thought were concerns, then we wouldn't have a problem," said Holifield.

If the school had plans of closing the league because of what went on this summer, Holifield says she is puzzled as to why wait until now to make the decision.

"I'm not really sure why they did this, but I feel like it is a personal vendetta against me," said Holifield.

The Gosnell Youth Association is already preparing for next season by trying to get another field or possibly building its own park if its appeal with the school board doesn't go through. The area youth also have the option of playing at nearby Blytheville.