One Saturday in March 2015, KIDSPORTS Director Bev Smith walked into the Lane Events Center gym and looked up. Rain was leaking through the roof onto the old wooden courts purchased years ago by the county from colleges around the country. Knowing she was about to disappoint hundreds of kids, she nonetheless had to cancel a series of basketball games.
In a city with collegiate sports facilities that are a point of community pride, indoor youth basketball games are being rained out. How did we get here?
The 15,000 children who play in KIDSPORTS every year, along with many other youth and adult sports organizations, face a shortage of decent gyms and fields.
“The pickings are slim in the Eugene area for available gyms, and those that are available are in very poor condition, small, and not appropriately equipped,” Smith says.
“The most competitive sport in town is coaches trying to schedule gym time.”
We need KIDSPORTS and other recreational leagues more than ever. Typical elementary school students in Eugene receive one hour of physical education per week. Lane County’s obesity rates, for both children and adults, have been on the rise.
“The plans we have for Civic aren’t about something that would be ‘nice to have,’” Smith says. “This is fundamental to our ability to raise healthy kids and have them grow into active adults. I’m not talking about training elite athletes. We’re talking about basic physical skills and habits everyone should learn by the time they are 11 or 12. Today, without enough functional, available space to play, most kids miss out on what is truly the most cost effective and practical form of health care.
“We can’t fail them.”