Grounder down the line: foul ball?

A contract with David “Butch” Tiller t/a SportsNation/SoftballNation had been expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, but after a community meeting held by Chesterfield’s Parks and Rec department last week, it may not be quite so simple.

The SportsNation organizer, Mr. Tiller, has been under fire for allegedly not fulfilling his contract and Parks and Recs shares the flack for not enforcing the contract.

Mr. Tiller manages softball teams at Iron Bridge (Harry Daniel) Park and the Warbro complex near Southside Speedway. According to the contract Tiller paid the county $65,000 for each of the last two years and another will be do in December.

“Back in 2010 Parks and Recreaction had a substantial budget reduction,” said Mike Golden, director of Parks and Rec. “We had to eliminate athletic programs at a reduction of $361,000; that included eliminating five full-time positions, four part-time, and then there was also a loss of about $168,000 in revenue.”

Mr. Golden said they eliminated the programming side of adult sports and the maintenance side. Not just for softball but also for basketball, volleyball, flag football, soccer and any of those types of athletics for adults. He said they thought they may have to close ballfields at Warbro, Bird, and the six fields at Harry Daniel, plus the three fields at the Lowes soccer complex.

The administration wanted to limit the amount of closings by forming partnerships in as many areas as possible. The county asked for bids to operate the softball fields at Warbro and Iron Bridge Park. “The lease for those facililities was awarded to David Tiller and Associates in September, 2010,” Golden said. “That lease expires at the end of this year.”

The Board of Supervisors had scheduled a public hearing for July 17.

Chester resident, Phil Lohr, has a problem with the new lease and the way it’s written. He said sections have been removed and words such as “shall” have been replaced with “should.” Mr. Lohr also noted that Tiller had not held up his side of the contract and the county had not been overseeing the performance of Tiller’s contract.

“A goal of mine has always been to own my own complex,” said Mr. Tiller, who holds the contract for Iron Bridge Park and Warbro. “In 2010 when I heard what was going on, I started attending meetings, and when the opportunity showed itself, I put in a bid and got the bid. It’s been good for my organization and it’s been good for the county.” He added that the leagues are smaller, though possibly due to baby boomers growing older.

Tiller said that in addition to regular league play, which teams pay over $700 per season, he has tournament play at Iron Bridge every weekend and almost every weekend at Warbro.

Tiller said that his tournaments are good for sports tourism because he can hold most of his weekend tournaments in Chesterfield, which puts money into the local economy.

And, he said, his organization has made improvements to the concession stands and the dugouts. He added that there are also repairs that the county needs to do per the contract.

Ruth Ann Bates, who plays softball as part of a mixed-couples league, said “We are in a better place than we were three years ago, but when you’re looking at $56 per person [$112 a couple] to play; that’s why teams have left.” She also said that her team had to rent a field to practice, buy balls from Tiller and that there are serious holes in the outfields.

Although Tiller said he doesn’t charge churches for league play, the clause that requires a contractee to waive fees for nonprofits has been removed in the new contract up for bid.

“After three separate attempts to get pertinent information, I am puzzled by the apparent reluctance on the part of Parks and Rec to reveal the real number of participants and Mr. Tiller’s revenue flow,” Lohr said.

Lohr has been tenacious in attempting to follow the income stream and the contract fulfillment of Tiller and his Softball Nation.

“Mr. Tiller has paid a fee to the County the last two years with the third payment due in December, and Parks and Recreation has continued its adult softball program,” Lohr said. “However, is the amount paid for the lease fair compensation to the Chesterfield taxpayer? 

In order to answer that question, one would need the real number of league participants and tournament income, as well as fees paid to Mr. Tiller and his expense outlay.” Lohr said he has yet to receive the information he needs.

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