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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.

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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