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UPDATED: Community Reacts to Lost Burros Fields

With the park district not renting fields to the Mokena Burros, one youth football parent "feels like the town is being torn."

Darlene Kruse's 10-year-old son came home from school on Wednesday saying he didn't even want to play football anymore.

Kruse estimates about 70 percent of her son's Mokena Burros youth football team, spurred on in part by , is moving over to the new Mokena Jr. Griffins youth football team.

Until Wednesday, Kruse was considering sending her 10 year old to the Jr. Griffins and keep her 8 year old with the Burros. Now, she's not sure what to do.

"Half their friends are leaving and that feels like a competition to them. It feels like the town is being torn," Kruse said.

Park district Executive Director Jim Romanek this week said the district would not be entering an affiliation agreement with the Burros. Although the team has played without an official agreement for years, under the new administration, no agreement means the district will not rent fields to the Burros.

On Thursday morning, Romanek said he had contacted Burros President Joe Lentz about coming back to the table to discuss an affiliation agreement and was awaiting the Burros' response.

Burros' PR representative Lisa Gunggoll said the Burros will be releasing a statement Friday morning on the status of the program and the upcoming season.

Agreement Terms Set, District Says

Romanek said the district sent an affiliation agreement for the Burros to sign, but it came back edited with changes the district did not agree to.

During Tuesday's board meeting, Burros President Joe Lentz asked for further meetings to come to terms on an agreement. 

Romanek told Patch after the meeting that the affiliation agreement needs to be signed "as it is."

He said the Mokena Baseball/Softball Association, several smaller sports teams and the Jr. Griffins already signed the agreement.

Parks vs. Burros or Jr. Griffins vs. Burros?

This leaves Kruse and other Mokena parents unsure of what to do just days before the new Mokena Jr. Griffins' March 3 registration.

Burros alumni registration is March 8. Open enrollment starts March 22.

"Honestly, I feel like I am being forced into the Griffins for both my kids," Kruse said.

Jr. Griffins varsity coach George Metanias said people should not see the disagreement over the affiliation agreement as one between the Burros and Jr. Griffins.

"The main thing is trying to explain to the people that this issue is between the park district and the Burros and not the Jr. Griffins and the Burros," said Metanias, who coached for the Burros for 15 years.

Park district board member Jim Richmond, who also sits on the Jr. Griffins board, declined to comment for this story.

, board President Dennis Bagdon said the decision was Romanek's, not the board's.

"This board backs Mr. Romanek's decisions 100 percent because we know it's always in the best interest of the park district," Bagdon said.

Past Burros Violations

A Burros coach last fall broke the park district's code of conduct by pushing a player to the ground and calling the child an insulting name, Bagdon said, confirming a recent SouthtownStar article.

"We worked it out and we moved forward," .

Kruse said people should not condemn the whole Burros program for past incidents.

"Yes, there was a lot of competition and a lot of politics and a lot of bad things happening around us, but it is football and if done right—which my kids are learning it correctly—(the kids) are being taught sportsmanship and how to play the game and how to have fun," Kruse said.

Updated at 11:40 a.m. with Romanek's comments about contacting the Burros.

DR- Mokena March 01, 2012 at 01:43 PM
The Burros do need to find another place to play at least this way to park will remain free of empty beer solo cups blowing around from all the parents who thought they were attending some Big 10 campus game on a Saturday morning. The rule of "No alcohol" in Main Park was truly being violated and I hope whoever uses the field this year between the goal posts adheres to this. The pitches tents were getting a little ridiculous. Go to the game with you kid, and leave afterwards. Your not watching Ohio State-Michigan. Keep our parks clean!!! If the Jr. Griffins play there or whoever, please NO ALCOHOL.
mary ellen March 01, 2012 at 01:44 PM
We have lived in Mokena for over 35 years, raised 3 sons who were Burros football players, and my husband is a past Burros board member. It was a great experience for our family and sons - we would love for other families to have these opportunities ..as Burros! Not letting Burros use park district fields is ridiculous and very narrow minded with long term consequences - there seems to be more to this story like someone looking for a quick fix. The kids are the ones who are losing.One coach's actions do not define a entire program that has meant so much to this community for many, many years. Sit down, work out the verbage of the contract, and get it done!! Make make effort!!
Another Mokena Taxpayer March 01, 2012 at 01:45 PM
The Burros from my understanding certainly want an agreement. Every year there has been one in place with general terms and now that's changed to several pages with this MPD board. I believe the Burros asked for a few simple changes in some of the language the MPD used, but the MPD didn't like the changes. If you spit on the grass wrong then they could throw the program out etc.
Kipper March 01, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Thats just it... It was not just one coach. Abuse of a kid is a big deal whenever it happens. I still remember the teachers and coaches that talked down to me. Years latter! When we get passed that, board members and coaches have really embarrassed themselves in the last few weeks. Useing profanity infront of kids at a basketball game? If you want to pass out flyers fill out the paper work. All I hear from the Burros is hold on we will get fields. Really where... how far away? and will we be renting in Mokena? if so Id love to know. If not Id love to find out what local park district is gonna get involved in this mess and rent to the Burros. If the Burros wanted to sit down they needed to do it before they had to run around and start apologizing for immature behavior. My kids just wants to play football they dont care who for. Just that its with friends. If we all wait for answers are kids may miss out.
Once a Burro, Always a Burro! March 01, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Kipper? What side are you on man? One minute you're blasting the Burros, the other you're saying your kid wants to play for them? If you really want to find out these answers, step up and help and quit being so negative!!!! Darlene Kruse: Hold tight and wait for the Burros to make their announcement on Friday. Burros parents...don't jump ship. Stand and support the organization that has been there for the kids of Mokena for 49 years! I don't care if we have to practice in my backyard, I will ALWAYS support the Burros! Take a good look around folks at the people causing the controversy. A man who didn't get picked for the Burros Board, a park district employee who started the confrontation with a Burros Board Member and a Village Trustee. Hmmmm....something doesn't smell right here folks! Funny how this all should come about right before the registration for the Griffins this Saturday. How pathetic! Hang tight Burros families, hang tight!
carole March 01, 2012 at 04:14 PM
How did all of this evolve into the Burro's not having a field? Let's start back at square one! The coach that called the child a name(it was stated that the child was not pushed to the ground but that was an inaccuracy in the article). Where is that coach now? Is he coaching again this year and with who? Let's get our facts straight! Burro's step forward and explain what was done. You need to restate the Burro's position on this. I respect the privacy of the coach but...is he coaching again for you this year? Or is he a driving force that is leading the "Jr. Griffins". Again know the facts parents! You may be unknowingly following the coach that this whole fiasco was about. When this first started it was a good concept. To allow children to play that were too heavy to play in the Burro league. Then it has mushroomed into, they have the same size players & cheerleaders. Quite a different story than we were lead to believe. Remember the old saying "divide and conquer?" You may be watching it play out before your very eyes! Go to the Burro's board get some answers and see what changes they have made to avoid this in the future.
It's me... March 01, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I had no idea this was all political. Here I thought we'd be able to sign my son up on a team that had no restrictions to play some football. After reading all of this 1) I don't want to be looked at as a "side picker", seeing we aren't one of those sports families and 2) the influences these people will have on my son. Seriously, why does everything have to be so political?
Dorothy March 01, 2012 at 04:39 PM
This just in - The Park District reached out to the Burros Pres. this a.m. wanting to sit down and discuss the agreement. Stop the rumor-mongering and call the Park District directly if you want the real answers.
Paul Dailing March 01, 2012 at 05:49 PM
The story has been updated to reflect that. The late update's on me. Jim Romanek called me earlier this morning to let me know about it, but I didn't see the message until later. But it's updated now.
Pat Patrick March 01, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I agree with no Alcohol. But you must be kidding to think parents putting up tents to watch their kids play or cheer is the reason for solo cups and beer cans. Some parents actualy have 2 or 3 kids involved in activities throuout the day. Its a park.
Pat Patrick March 01, 2012 at 06:09 PM
You wont get the real answer from the Park District. You may get an answer but it will be their version.
parent March 01, 2012 at 06:23 PM
when will the burros release a statement about where or if they will play and practice
I've been involved with the Burros organization for the past three years with a child in football and cheer. I haven't seen "solo cups" blowing in the wind. There are other people that have multiple children involved with the program and they watch all of their children's games. To accuse an entire organization of bad behaivor because of a few bad apples, then there will be the same problems with the Jr Griffins. Where there are people with many different outlooks or personalities, you will have some issues. You need to fix what is broken and move on. You shouldn't condem the entire organization. For those of us whose children still want to play for the Burros beacuse that's where their friends are, you are going to ruin it for them.
Paul Dailing March 01, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Friday morning.
Frankfurter March 01, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Prospective JR Griffins Parents Be Informed: I just read the 2/16 article in the Southtown. It states: “ The Junior Griffins will play in the River Valley League, which focuses on equal playing time for all kids, Bagdon said, while the Burros program is more competitive and has weight requirements. Mokena kids who don’t meet those requirements or want a less competitive experience have had to look elsewhere, some playing for the Frankfort Falcons, which is also a member of the River Valley League.” What a bunch of bunk! There are dozens of Falcon players that do not see a minute of playing time in the real games. There is no equal playing time. Coaches are focused on winning, and very competitive (that doesn’t make it bad). It is like that throughout the River Valley league. And there are weight requirements. Don’t fool yourself if you think the JR Griffins is going to be different. Equal playing time for all kids = getting you butts kicked; resulting in parents getting upset. For reference: my kid plays for the Falcons, he enjoys it, he had good coaches, and he sits on the bench for 98% of the real game. I enjoy the program; wished he played more. No program is perfect. Mokena parents just need to understand the reality.
Once a Burro, Always a Burro! March 01, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Thank you Frankfurter for speaking up. Everyone wishes their kid could play more. The reality is that not every kid is going to be great at every thing. If your kid wants to play, let them play. If they're ok with how things are on their team, then parents should be too. It's supposed to be for fun and learning. No one is going to come out of either league a Brian Urlacher or Walter Payton folks. Just let the kids play.
reasonable March 01, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Has anyone else noticed the majority of the damage is already made? ALOT of the parents have already signed their children up and "jumped ship"! These parents may not know what is going on and all the controversy or that the children are suffering & waiting for answers also. They don't realize that the ones who played Burros last year & made friends/ team mates and bonds have just been broken and are now being taught that they are a rivalry and if one plays for one league and one the other then they are no longer "team-mates" in the town of friendship. They are enemies being placed against each other! THESE ARE KIDS! Don't get me wrong I am for choice and teaching my kids all about competition... but was this kind really necessary? NO! The parents/board members who didn't get their way w/Burros went and formed the Griffins... hmmm, BEST INTEREST IN OUR TOWN & CHILDREN... STAY TOGETHER, WORK YOUR DIFFERENCES OUT & MAKE 1 GREAT LEAGUE THAT EVERYONE CAN ENJOY; like it was! If we wanted division of town/children we would go to other towns to play! This whole situation is ridiculous, I hope these parents are as concerned about our schools! (Sure they can find a way to start a new league and get everything they want and the park district board is all over it... but can the school taxes and future of our childrens education be helped? Seems like priorities shifted somewhere!) BTW: Some of you should use your real names & NOT BE AFRAID! Stand up for what you believe in!
Seriously March 01, 2012 at 08:16 PM
From what I understand, the Burros did not want to expand the Flag Football to include older age brackets. For those of us who have children not wishing to pursue tackle ball, Griffins will provide an opportunity that Burros will not. Get to a certain age with Burros - Go Tackle or Don't Play. There is always another option and that is to go to another league.
Once a Burro, Always a Burro! March 01, 2012 at 09:32 PM
This was so not about an expanded Flag Football team! People come on! What was so great about Mokena was that everyone came together. We were really a community. I was proud to be from this town and glad we decided to make Mokena our home. Not quite so sure anymore.
Seriously March 01, 2012 at 10:14 PM
You would think then the Burros would have considered the needs of all the community, and expanded Flag for the older boys. Burros made the decision to stay status quo and focus more on tackle, and that is fine. So now there is another option-it doesn't have to be if you are for one you are against the other.
Once a Burro, Always a Burro! March 01, 2012 at 10:25 PM
On the Burros Website: BURROS FLAG PROGRAM GROWS TO INCLUDE 12-14 YEAR OLD LEVEL Player's cannot turn 15 before September 1, 2012 This is a 7 on 7 format, similar to the 9-11 year old level
carole March 01, 2012 at 10:39 PM
The Burros is a volunteer organization and it would be irresponsible to have so many programs that they can't cover with volunteers. I am assuming that the Jr Griffins would be volunteers also unless since it is sponsored by the Mokena Park District that they will provide all of the volunteers needed. One thing I never saw on the field was a lack of children eager to participate and play football and cheer. So there is a need for heavier players...that is dictated by the league,not the Burros so go to another league for that size. That is understandable. No one ever complained about that. It is beginning to sound as if the Park District wants to provide a football program with their connection of the Jr Griffins and a Park Board Commissioner. Handle this carefully men especially since the next election may have many write in votes. The PD is making a great mistake getting so involved in this instead of taking care of business. Park board minutes should reflect that this gentleman has recused himself from any football vote.
Tom Jones March 01, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Other towns like New Lenox , Frankfort, Orland, joliet etc. have more then one team in there town it did not split there towns up or divide them. Why is it that now the Jr. Griffins are going to divide our town. Having more then one team is not about division it's about options. Don't use that as an excuse to put down the Jr. Griffins. It's a Mokena team let's show some support.
Mr. Wizard March 02, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Metanias gets dumped by Burros and starts his own team. First the Falcons and now The JGs. Nice way to divide the town. Didn't we see this act with Home Depot? Ain't America great?
Mokena Sports Dad March 02, 2012 at 03:00 AM
OK, simple solution here folks. Bagdon and Romanek should be ousted from the PD and Hunninford and DellaFave should be ousted from the Burros. If both Boards are really concerned about this town and these kids, they will remove the problems. Two teams is not bad for Mokena and it gives kids options that are best for them. Lets remember here guys, this is a kids game and not a game that is suppose to be played through politics or dad's looking to get their own way.
Pat Patrick March 02, 2012 at 01:51 PM
FYI - The burros spent almost $50.000to help update the football field only to be told by the park district that we could not practice on it because it may damage it. The Burros also had to rent lights so it could practice at other fields, that did not have light, because there was not enough room at main park. The Burros were also told there was not enough parking to add a field at the Oaks. NOW THE PARK DISTRICT IS BACKING A SECOND TEAM.
reasonable March 02, 2012 at 02:06 PM
^ and if shared, and something happens to these fields whos going to fix them?
knightforlife March 04, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Mr. Wizard, why did the burros dump metanias. U explain it. Come on, the guy coaches for 15 years, and all of a sudden, a new A.D. comes, and says he wants a change. Bullcrap. And Btw, metanias was asked to coach the griffins, he didn't start the league. Get ur facts straight everyone.
Burro supporter for clean coaches March 04, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Well said Mokena Sports Dad. I wish everyone thought that way. The MPDist needs to remove themselves from the JRG.
William Caldwell March 04, 2012 at 09:20 PM
What kind of park isn't delighted to see kids use the park If there is a problem with adults, call the police. I am glad to see anyone use the park that I contribute to. Does the Park District realize that getting approval for a rate increase won't be easy.

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