Fuquay-Varina Athletic Association is shutting down

aramos@newsobserver.comSeptember 13, 2013 

Members of the Fuquay-Varina Athletic Association showed their support for the group last year as the town decided to cut ties with the nonprofit.

ALIANA RAMOS — aramos@newsobserver.com

— For more than 20 years, the Fuquay-Varina Athletic Association has been the go-to source for youth sports in town.

But no longer: On Nov. 22, the FVAA will shut down.

The association has lost money and members since Fuquay-Varina started its own youth sports program a year ago. The FVAA’s board of directors decided Tuesday to dissolve the nonprofit group.

“The organization did its very best, but unfortunately the Town’s actions and the lack of support beyond the core membership are obstacles that could not be overcome,” group leaders wrote in a letter sent to members Wednesday.

Last summer, Fuquay-Varina commissioners decided to end the town’s decades-long contract with the FVAA and run its own program after three years of failed negotiations.

The end of the agreement meant the FVAA no longer had first preference for field-rental space. The new regulations gave preference to groups that had the most participants who lived in Fuquay-Varina. At the time, 60percent of FVAA’s members lived outside town.

The FVAA has spent $65,000 to rent athletic facilities in the past year, said Tara Peebles, FVAA treasurer. The group also paid for portable toilets, maintenance and cleanup, she said.

To reduce expenses, the association has laid off one full-time employee and cut back on postage and supplies, Peebles said. The group rents field space as far away as Angier, and group leaders looked for free facilities around the Triangle.

But the group can’t make ends meet without raising rates, Peebles said.

It would take an additional $70,000 to $80,000 a year to stay afloat, according to the group. Peebles said the FVAA’s board didn’t want to pass along the burden of higher fees to families.

The FVAA charges an annual membership fee of $60. Registration fees are an additional $40 to $95, depending on the sport and age group.

The town’s recreation program costs $40 for residents and $65 for nonresidents for most sports. There is no annual membership fee.

FVAA’s membership has dropped from about 2,000 to about 700, Peebles said.

“We’ve lost two-thirds of our membership,” she said. “After the town made its decision, a lot of people weren’t sure what would happen to us. Some went to the town, others decided to play closer to home.”

Meanwhile, the town’s sports program has 2,732 children who take part in baseball, cheerleading, dance, flag football, soccer, softball, T-ball, tackle football and volleyball.

More than 600 people volunteered to coach teams in the town program, and Fuquay-Varina gave out 168 scholarships.

Big growth, investment

A group of parents and volunteers founded the FVAA in the late 1980s to give their kids a chance to play sports. The town then didn’t have enough staff to offer an athletics program.

The town and group struck a deal: the FVAA ran the program and the town supplied facilities.

Fuquay-Varina has grown from about 8,000 to 20,000 people over the past decade, and the town invested $10million in athletic fields. Elected leaders said it was time to create a town-run youth recreational sports program.

“The simple facts are that the Fuquay-Varina community is not large enough to support (two) competing organizations.… So rather than raise rates again or risk running out of funds midway through a season, the decision has been made to exit gracefully with all debts paid and all commitments to our teams honored through the Fall 2013 sessions,” the letter to FVAA members states.

The group’s fall sports programs – including baseball, softball, volleyball and football – will finish their season.

The association hopes commissioners and committees overseeing each sport will decide to create their own nonprofit clubs. The FVAA will donate its equipment to groups that present a viable plan.

Uncertainty for families

The end of the FVAA leaves some uncertainty for parents like Susan Cannaday, who has two boys, ages 10 and 5, who play sports with the group.

Cannaday lives in an unincorporated area.

“We’re left out in the cold unless we decide to sign up with the town,” she said. “I’m pretty shocked that it came down so quickly. It’s sad.”

“All we know is the FVAA,” she said. “I really don’t know what to say. It’s a big family.”

Her biggest concern is for her older son, who is part of the association’s baseball travel team. The town doesn’t currently offer a travel program.

“The primary focus of the town’s youth sports program since its inception one year ago has been providing opportunities for kids to play at the recreational level in Fuquay-Varina,” said town spokeswoman Susan Weis. “At this point, it is impossible to know what the future holds for additional sports programming without careful study and needs assessment.”

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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