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Rec. Leagues Will Be Alternative For CMS Middle School Athletes

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http://66.225.205.104/LM20110127.mp3

Middle school sports will likely be one casualty of $100 million in budget cuts at CMS. That would leave thousands of kids looking for new teams to play on. Middle school sports just made it into this current school year's budget. But the board had to do something unprecedented. It charged those players who could afford it $50. High school players had to pay $100m and that went to subsidize the middle school teams. CMS board member and former high school coach Joe White fought hard to save middle school athletics in budget negotiations last year. This year he's given up the fight. "I think all of you know how much it saddens me to be a part of the board whose legacy it is, 'I did away with middle school athletics," White said at the Jan. 11 board meeting. But with this year's budget, White said he sees no way alternative. The district's outgoing Athletics Director, Vicki Hamilton said the district looked at one option to raise the $1.2 million to save it, but decided that's out of the question. "We could certainly pay for middle school sports, but we're going to have to charge you triple or more in order to do that and that just simply was not something we could pass on to our families," she said. But many families will have to do that anyway, if they want to play. There are many youth rec. leagues in Mecklenburg County. The cost varies depending on the sport and the league, but $100 to nearly $200 is common for a 10-game season of basketball. "It's far more expensive than the very low amount that CMS decided to charge when it went to the participation fee for middle school and high school sports," said Tripp Roakes, publisher of the South Charlotte Sports Report. He's upset CMS isn't considering raising fees to pay for middle school sports. He says league sports are great, but it's just not the same as playing for your school. " No one's going to come out to watch the red team play the blue team in Matthews when you're not representing your school. The excitement is gone is what happens," Roakes said. Todd Harwood is the president of the Huntersville Youth Athletic Association, where basketball costs $110. He says his league's problem is not enough available practice space. HYAA teams practice once a week, but with more middle school gyms going unused after hours, he hopes that might change. "We would do all the work and we would grow and we would give these kids something to do and perhaps we'd have more practice than once a week," Harwood said. But with more practice comes a higher cost to play. CMS charges $25 an hour for use of gymnasiums.