Lawton Public Schools and Cameron University continue to be interested in cooperative ventures with city sports programs handled by Eastern Sports Management.
The Lawton Youth Sports Trust Authority hired Eastern Sports Management last year to handle day-to-day operations of sports programs that had been managed by the City of Lawton’s Parks and Recreation Department before the City Council created the trust authority to take on that task. A major goal has been increasing participation in those city youth sports program, and Trust Authority Chairman Mark Henry said Manager Matt Elliott and his team have been successful.
“Enrollment participation continues to increase,” Henry said, adding that the last fall sports enrollment estimate he heard continues to increase; figures from July indicated a 33 percent increase in participation.
Trust authority members said Elliot and his team have brought a combined effort that is increasing participation by youths and adults, actions that have included adding new sports and extending some sports beyond their traditional seasons. Henry said the gains have been valuable, but they are presenting Lawton and Eastern Sports Management with another challenge: finding enough facilities for the teams.
The trust authority and Eastern Sports Management is addressing that problem by pursuing cooperative ventures with Cameron University and Lawton Public Schools, and both entities are interested, Henry said. And, that includes a new venture the sports trust authority is interested in taking on: assuming control of aquatics activities now handled by the Parks and Recreation Department.
Henry said he already has posed an idea to Cameron University President John McArthur about use of Cameron’s pool, which could provide the “competitive lanes” needed by swim teams. Henry said Cameron officials are open to the idea.
“We’ll continue down that path,” he said of negotiations, adding an analysis of what Cameron could offer is slated for completion by month’s end. That could mean discussion of an agreement at the trust authority’s October meeting.
Henry said discussions also continue with Lawton Public Schools, which traditionally has allowed city sports teams to use schools for their practice and play. Henry said Eastern Sports Management wants to continue that use.
“We’ll run volleyball in their facilities,” Henry said of one plan for fall sports.
Henry said identifying facilities for football is “more of a challenge” because of the number of school and city teams needing practice and playing space.
“We’ll continue to work on that,” Henry said, of plans to balance team schedules.
The process may be eased by renovations by Lawton Public Schools, which launched a project earlier this year to upgrade sports fields at all three high schools, to include the amenities around those fields. The sports authority also launched an upgrade of ballfields in Ahlschlager, Eastside and McMahon parks, bringing those fields back to tournament-level quality. Fields have been upgraded and grass has begun to grow again, Henry said of a maintenance plan the trust authority implemented to provide routine care for fields.