With Sports, Parks and Recreation Department programs on the skimpy side on St. John, the non-profit St. John Sporting Center many years ago stepped up to the plate to fill the gaps.
That said, with the island’s recently-hired Sports, Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Elroy Hill as a mover and shaker in the Sporting Center, new ties between the department and the group have been forged.
“It will be easier to get things done,” Hill said.
Hill is optimistic that Sports, Park and Recreation will pay more attention to St. John, including replacement of the decrepit building across from the fire station in Cruz Bay used by the department and others for a variety of athletic and other programs.
“When it rains hard, water comes down from in back and soaks the floor,” he said, gesturing toward a patchwork of mismatched floor tiles that show evidence of the building’s flooding problems.
Meanwhile, the Sporting Center does what it can to keep the Winston Wells Ballfield in shape so the youths can use it for sports events. Hill said that the summer basketball program used the Pine Peace court for its activities.
According to Hill, the Sporting Center is also forging alliances with Gifft Hill and Julius E. Sprauve Schools to better provide youth sports activities.
While the department runs some youth programs, the Sporting Center focuses on basketball and baseball programs, with soccer and flag football coming up. The group ran the basketball program over the summer but has now switched to baseball.
Playing as the V.I. Eagles, 17 of the more advanced baseball players headed off to the national Amateur Athletic Union Baseball International Championship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to compete with teams from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Panama in the age 13-and-younger tournament.
“It helps motivate the other kids,” Hill said.
He also anticipates that the Sporting Center will be a major player in setting up a community softball league to bring older and younger players together. As Hill envisions it, the league will have teams from the island’s hotels and different government agencies competing for fun and glory.
In conjunction with Sports, Parks and Recreation, the Sporting Club recently expanded into an after-school tutoring program for the island’s youths.
It began as the Ambassadors program, but its name was changed to the Sporting Center more than a decade ago.
As Hill sees it, the Sporting Center’s programs help keep the island’s youths out of trouble with the law.
Funding is the chief challenge. Hill, who serves as the group’s treasurer, and other offices are all volunteers. Lionel Sprauve, the V.I. Port Authority’s dock master on St. John, is the organization’s president, with Christian Harley the vice president, Sherry Ann Francis the secretary, and Ian Samuel in charge of public relations.
The group needs money to pay for uniforms and equipment.
While the group has gotten some funding from Sports, Parks and Recreation as well as local businesses, Sprauve said it depends on fundraising to fill in the gaps and pay for the yearly stateside trip.
“Car washes, food sales, soup sales, 50/50 raffles, and tournaments,” Sprauve said, explaining how the group raises money.
Those who want to volunteer or sign up a child for a Sporting Center program can call Hill at 776-6531.