Hundreds of Little League players in Gilbert have nowhere to play baseball for the 2007 season.
Gilbert’s Southeast Diamondbacks Little League will have no fields to play on by February 2007, a situation parents say could leave 700 southeast Gilbert children at a disadvantage compared with two other Little League affiliates in town that use Gilbert fields.
"I’m a taxpaying resident," said league vice president April Howell, whose four sons play Little League. "For me to think my kids aren’t going to be able to play baseball . . . they love baseball."
The Southeast Diamondbacks had until recently been a part of a larger organization that included Queen Creek and had long used Queen Creek fields. But when the league reached 1,500 children recently, it split to create the new Queen Creek Little League, leaving the Southeast Diamondbacks with primarily Gilbert area players.
Queen Creek will allow the league to use its fields for the 2006 season beginning in February, Howell said, but that agreement ends in 2007.
Town officials have a year to find space. But the problem is that there just doesn’t seem to be any.
The price of land and the lack of available park space leave town officials with few solutions for the teams, as well as dozens of other youth sports groups all vying for the same fields.
Town Councilman Steve Urie said finding a solution is difficult with Gilbert already housing two of the largest Little Leagues in the state: The Gilbert American and National teams.
Parks director Maury Ahlman said planned parks might help create future fields, and the Big League Dreams athletic venue will open in 2007, though it won’t be operated by the town. Gilbert has a variety of athletic needs difficult to fill, Ahlman said, from lacrosse to football.
"The trouble is land has gotten so expensive and as Gilbert approaches buildout, the land available is shrinking," Mayor Steve Berman said. "Soccer is at least one sport we do a pretty good job on. I think the other sports like football may be in shorter supply."