Mayor's Corner:City And School District Enter Into Joint Agreement For Fields

Those of you who know me well understand that sports are a personal passion – one of my great joys has always been the camaraderie and competition I found on the field or in the gym. Like many of you, I was lucky to spend countless hours as a youth playing sports through Lakewood’s Recreation Department. I later worked for the department and volunteered as a coach. I see our city’s ability to offer high quality sports and recreation as something that sets us apart. So I was thrilled that my administration and the Lakewood Schools recently developed a joint agreement that finally clarifies each party’s responsibilities for capital expenses and maintenance of city fields used by the Recreation Department.

The City and the Lakewood City Schools have a decades-long, highly beneficial partnership in recreation. Despite that long relationship, until last month there was never a formal, written agreement setting out whose staff would maintain the fields and where the financial resources for maintenance and capital needs would originate. As you can imagine, some challenges arose with no such written deal in place. The new joint agreement provides the clarity that was lacking for decades.

Many in Lakewood may not realize we have a fairly unique approach to our recreation department when compared to other Ohio cities. Almost all other Ohio recreation departments are housed within city government, while Lakewood’s falls within the School District’s oversight. While uncommon, it’s clear that our model actually provides immense community benefit by ensuring that health, wellness, and physical activity are deeply engrained as part of the growth and development of Lakewood’s children.

With this formal agreement in place, we can all move forward to ensure that we meet the standards of quality and excellence at our fields that everyone in Lakewood expects and deserves. In the short term, that means the City will fully fund infield upgrades at Jimmie Foxx Field in Kaufmann Park and George J. Usher Field at Madison Park. This work will be done after the 2021 season ends and in advance of the 2022 season to avoid any interruptions in usage.

Moving forward, each year the City will repair and recrown one of the six fields on a rotating basis during the offseason. The School District will contribute $20,000 annually, with the City paying for any other costs. The City and the Schools also agreed to meet annually to determine which field to address, ensure that field issues are prevented, and clarify maintenance and improvements timelines. Because the Recreation Department, not the City, will continue to maintain the fields, an open line of communication will be key.

I’ll close with a word of thanks to the Lakewood School Board and Superintendent Maggie Niedzwiecki for working diligently with my team at City Hall to get this deal done and to City Council for unanimously approving it on September 20th. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone out on the fields again next year when spring rolls around.

Volume 17, Issue 20, Posted 4:59 PM, 10.06.2021