BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Sixth-grader Rocco Armentrout stood inside the Anthony Wayne High School cafeteria and sleepily watched as groups of girls – clad in basketball jerseys – posed for team photos early last Saturday morning.
“If I didn’t play basketball, I’d be sleeping in or playing Fortnite,” the Waterville preteen admitted.
Rocco is one of the 2,644 participants in Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation (AWYF) activities – which include eight sports in both house leagues and travel teams. Because Rocco also plays soccer, his dad, Dustin Armentrout, is used to spending time at the Blue Creek Recreation Area (BCRA) in Whitehouse, sometimes accompanied by friend Adrienne Salon.
“Blue Creek has come a long way,” said Adrienne, who grew up in Sylvania playing soccer and softball at Pacesetter Park. “They’ve (AWYF) done a much better job with the fields.”
“They’re heading in the right direction, but I would like to see them take better care of the parking lots,” Dustin added.
Those sentiments mirror many of the comments shared by the 267 respondents to a fall 2018 survey e-mailed to 2,200 past and present AWYF families. This week, the AWYF is releasing the results of the survey, which included questions about facilities, activities, funding and more.
“We wanted a feel for how the community views the foundation,” said AWYF treasurer Chris Chisholm. “We’re interested in how to grow and improve.”
Some of the highlights of the survey:
• 96 percent say that the AWYF adds value to the community.
• 83 percent agree with how the coaching is structured.
• 81 percent of respondents are not aware of the level of improvements made to BCRA.
• Respondents were split on whether the $90.00 per family recreational facilities fee is fair.
• A majority would like to see restrooms and improved parking at BCRA.
• 75 percent would support a park recreation district.
“At the end of the day, we’re doing a lot of things right, and people appreciate what we do,” Miller said. “We’ll use this information to help us plan for the future.”
A group of citizens had a vision for an area recreational facility – one with sports fields, walking trails and even a water slide – back in 2002. Todd Frendt was among the members seeking to form a Anthony Wayne Area Joint Recreation District (AWARD) to run the facility, but two attempts to pass a bond issue failed. In 2007, Frendt and a group of citizens instead formed the AWYF, with a goal of unifying youth sports teams and developing the 205 acres on Providence Street next to the large quarry, land owned by Metroparks Toledo.
Through fundraising, donations and grants, the organization raised enough money to invest more than $1 million in BRCA, noted AWYF president Drew Miller.
“We’re committed to developing Blue Creek. Most of it is underground, so a lot of people aren’t aware of how much we’ve done,” Miller said, listing drainage and irrigation.
In 2013, the first four ball diamonds were opened. The next goal is to install restrooms, a storage building for equipment and irrigation and drainage on the north end of the property. Later, the plan calls for another four ball diamonds and a concession stand with a press box and restrooms.
This spring, AWYF administrator Mandi Brannan said, a well should be dug to allow the complex to use well water for irrigation.
“Water is one of our biggest costs. We’ve spent nearly $100,000 in water since 2010,” she said. “The village of Whitehouse is allowing us to dig a well. This won’t be a small well; it will be a mammoth undertaking.”
The village has been incredibly supportive of the AWYF over the years, Miller said, by assisting with mowing and providing some maintenance of the property. In order to maintain the fields to be ready for soccer, lacrosse, football and baseball, the grass is sometimes mowed twice a week.
While the BCRA is the most visible location for AWYF sports, it’s the partnerships with area municipalities, including Monclova Township, Waterville and Anthony Wayne Local Schools, that provide enough locations for multiple teams and sports.
“We have a lot of green space, but we’re at the point where we need more green space,” Miller said.
One option that AWYF leaders may reconsider is the creation of a parks and recreation district similar to one used to fund activities at Pacesetter Park and Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania. The participating municipalities and the school district would need to agree to partner with AWYF on such a district, which would be supported by a tax on those within the district.
“We’ll look at all of our options in order to allow the foundation to provide activities for the community,” said Jeff Meyer, AWYF vice chair.
The funding model has long been a challenge, Chisholm said. The addition of a $90.00 per family facilities fee to offset costs has caused some criticism from those who feel it’s unfair for families with only one child in sports. When the board gathers next, that fee will be on the agenda.
While space, funding and finding enough volunteers are constant challenges for the AWYF, participation and interest in youth sports has steadily grown, Miller said.
“We’re always looking for new programming ideas,” Miller said.
Girls lacrosse may be added if the demand is there. This season is the first for girls travel basketball.
Taylor Frendt, a 2011 AW graduate and Todd’s daughter, heads up the planning for the boys and girls basketball rec league programs, as well as scheduling the girls travel teams for third through sixth grade.
“We wanted to bring the girls teams to a more competitive level,” Taylor said. “A lot of girls were decent players, but didn’t have any travel opportunities.”
The AWYF also added the high school ski club, which this weekend is taking a trip to Breckenridge, Colo.
For more information on the survey results and the sports offered by the AWYF, visit www.awcommunity.net.