After the park district would not rent fields to the Mokena Burros, the youth football and cheer program found their own space to play—the vacant Meijer development at Route 30 and Wolf Road.
"We are thrilled to have been able to reach this agreement for our upcoming season," Dan LaValle, Burros board member and liaison for the recent lease negotiations said in a statement released Friday morning. "We want to personally thank Meijer Corporation in particular for their support of our program."
This comes six days before 2012 registration for the 49-year-old program. Until now, the Burros always played at Mokena's Main Park.
Earlier this week, park district Executive Director Jim Romanek said they would not rent fields to the Burros after the group returned an affiliation agreement edited with changes the district did not agree to.
This follows allegations of coaches and parents breaking park district rules, including one incident last season where a coach was disciplined for throwing a child to the ground and calling him insulting names.
In an incident witnessed on surveillance tape by the SouthtownStar, a woman stole a stack of fliers for the Mokena Jr. Griffins youth football program from the park district offices.
Romanek told the SouthtownStar that, after the incident was reported in the media, a stack of fliers was returned about three weeks later with a note signed by the wife of a Burros board member that "This is far more than I took. I’ll wait to see this in the papers. Thanks."
"At this time, we feel it's not in our best interest to affiliate ourselves with the Burros organization," Romanek told Patch on Tuesday.
This left a nail-biter for Mokena parents of children who wanted to participate in youth football and cheer.
Do they wait to see what happens before Burros' March 8 first registration or do they join the new Mokena Jr. Griffins youth football program, which is holding registration tomorrow?
"It feels like the town is being torn," parent Darlene Kruse said on Wednesday.
In a letter to the editor published by Patch on Friday, the Jr. Griffins board said the dispute is between the park district and the Burros, not the Griffins and the Burros.
"(We) sincerely hope that all football, cheer, and flag players find a comfortable place to play, regardless of what organization name is on the front of the jersey," the letter read in part.
On Thursday morning, Romanek sent an e-mail to the Burros re-opening talks over the affiliation agreement. According to the SouthtownStar, that e-mail included a requirement the Burros change its leadership before getting park district fields.
As of 7 p.m. Thursday, Burros officials said talks were continuing.
Shortly before 9 a.m. Friday, the Burros announced the new field.
New Field in Play
In their announcement, the Burros said the 15-acre property adjacent to the Mokena Marketplace shopping center at Route 30 and Wolf Road "is ideally located and provides both ample parking and nearby amenities including many restaurants and retail outlets."
The vote by the Burros board was unanimous, the announcement said.
First registration for the Burros 2012 season will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 8 at Mokena Elementary School. Second registration will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 22 at the school. Visit the Burros website for more information.
This story will be updated as it develops.
Updated at 2:18 p.m. Friday with information from the SouthtownStar and the Jr. Griffins letter to the editor.