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Field use: no longer us against them

There's no question that Lake Oswego could use some more sports fields. Space and availability are so tight that the battles over usage sometimes can be more entertaining than the games that are played on those fields.

But it doesn't need to be that way. In fact, Lake Oswego's nine main youth sports organizations have decided to band together to solve that problem.

The idea of joining forces was the brainchild of Sean Calhoun, president of Lakeridge Junior Baseball.

'It came from frustration more than anything,' Calhoun says now.

So, last fall, Calhoun sent out an e-mail to seven youth groups on the Lake Oswego side of the lake, including softball, lacrosse, junior baseball, Little League, soccer, basketball and football, and included Lakeridge Youth Football as well.

Despite the fact that each of those groups prefers to operate as a sole entity, they all realized that they needed to band together in regard to field usage. And thus the Lake Oswego Youth Sports Alliance was created.

'In the past, the youth sports community has been a little bit fractured … But it only took a couple of weeks to get everyone to agree to come together,' said Dan Dutton, president of Lakeridge Youth Football.

'Our main motivation for getting together was (to achieve) better use of the fields we have today. We're trying to get to the point where we have full co-operation,' Calhoun said.

Typically, the city issues permits for its fields months before the organizations know what they'll actually need. Then groups later realized they needed more space, and they would often negotiate with other organizations for a portion of their allotment. Now, all of those groups can sit down together and map out a master schedule that everyone can be happy with.

It didn't take long for everyone to agree to come together but it took much longer for everyone to agree on an agenda. Ultimately, they decided to focus on three main issues: field use, becoming the youth sports experts for the city, and fundraising.

The fundraising segment could become a driving force in helping youth sports grow in Lake Oswego. The group would like to become the leader in getting more fields built. The only problem is the dwindling amount of available land within the city limits.

So, the Youth Sports Alliance will try to take an active role in helping design the Luscher Farms complex.

That new complex could help alleviate some of the scheduling problems that exist between adult and youth programs. As it stands now, youth baseball loses three of its fields to the adult programs when school ends in June each year, Calhoun said. And Waluga Park is nearly busting at the seams with five groups battling for its use.

In this era of greater cooperation, the association is working hard to avoid territorial squabbling, especially when it involves a party from each side of the lake.

'We're working hard to avoid making it Lakeridge versus Lake Oswego,' Calhoun said.

So, with the youth groups joining forces, does that mean a combined high school is very far behind?

'That's not our goal,' Dutton said.

It's not about the schools, 'it's about the kids,' Dutton added.