By Denise Dick
A youth football league for students from the city will be able to use the new Rayen Stadium at no charge, but the same consideration won’t be given to leagues with players from surrounding communities.
The city school board agreed this week to waive fees for youth league championship games — the players are divided by weight class — that “exclusively target children living in the city of Youngstown,” according to a news release from the school district.
The Volney Rogers Youth Football League, in its 79th season, will be the first youth league to play at the new Rayen Stadium’s Jack Antonucci Field.
The first of three playoff games for the league’s championships is set for 11 a.m. Saturday. Gates open at 10.
“We have always supported the Volney Rogers Youth Football League,” said Richard Atkinson, school board member, “and these teams have practiced at our schools for many years. We are delighted that the new stadium will directly benefit Youngstown children.”
Last week, the president of the Northeast Ohio Youth Football League said in a Vindicator article that the league would play its championship games at Cardinal Mooney High School because it couldn’t afford the $2,500 charge to use Rayen. At that time, the district’s athletic director said the district agreed to lower the fee for the Volney Rogers league to $1,900.
The NEOYFL includes three teams from the city, two from Warren and two from Mercer County.
“The board agreed to let [the Volney Rogers league] have the stadium free of charge to hold their super bowl because they all live in the city of Youngstown,” said Ed Matey, school district athletic director.
The NEOYFL includes players from other areas. Besides the teams from Warren and Mercer County, the three city teams also include players from surrounding suburbs.
Nate Armstrong, president of the NEOYFL, said he’s happy that the Volney Rogers league will be able to play at the new stadium free of charge.
The criteria of targeting players from the city excludes the NEOYFL, however. “It’s saying, ‘We don’t care about kids in Warren. We don’t care about kids in Mercer County,” Armstrong said. “We [the NEOYFL] focus on the entire Mahoning Valley.”
While his league’s three city teams include players from other communities, most on the teams attend school in the city. Some attend parochial schools in the city, and others go to the city schools, he said.
The youth football leagues motivate kids, get them involved with the community and keep them off the streets, Armstrong said.
“Our main goal is to focus on making sure our kids are better people first, and football comes along with that,” he said.
Matey said the amount charged to groups or schools that want to use the Rayen stadium isn’t a rental fee. It just covers costs.
The $2,500 paid by Ursuline High School to play a home game earlier this season included $1,500 for 11 police officers for security, $500 for paint to line the field and $500 for two custodians working overtime, Matey said.
It doesn’t cover other costs such as electricity and water, he said.
Armstrong said that maybe in the future, the NEOYFL and Volney Rogers league can play each other at the Rayen Stadium in some sort of tournament or all-star game.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase what we have to encourage kids to come back to the Youngstown City Schools and to be a part of the youth sports program,” he said.