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Field renaming upsets family

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
September 29, 2009
— Vicki Damron thought the $6,000 she donated a decade ago to create a soccer field at the Youth Sports Complex had given her family naming rights, not a limited-time sponsorship.

But she was in tears recently after she learned members of a new soccer club removed the sign that recognized her family for the donation.


To raise funds, the new club, the Rock Soccer Club, is selling sponsorships to the soccer fields in the complex.


In a string of e-mails, Damron asked council members for help.


Council member Russ Steeber at Monday's council meeting asked for a report no later than November to find a resolution.


"I find it's very disturbing when the new soccer club came in to totally disregard those initial donors," he said. He likened it to the city pulling the name from the Hedberg Public Library.


Bill Fisher, president of the Rock Soccer Club, said in an e-mail to council member Tom McDonald that the Rock Soccer Club is selling sponsorships to the fields to raise money.


The Rock Soccer Club was formed in 2007 and leases the fields from the city.


Fisher said: "It was never expressed to us that there were any other terms, contracts or conditions with any sponsors of the previous soccer program (that has been defunct for some time) or of the Youth Sports Complex," he said.


The Damron family sign also included the name of the former soccer club.


Fisher said he asked permission from the Youth Sports Coalition to remove the old signs.


Blain's Farm & Fleet bought a three-year sponsorship of a new sign.


Fisher said his club couldn't honor a contract he does not have with Damron or her family.


"We continue to seek financial support for our youth program and plan to continue raising funds in this way," he wrote.


Council President Bill Truman e-mailed that he believes the matter was handled badly.


"I don't know who gave Mr. Fisher permission to remove this sign from city property. If it takes council action to put it back, then so be it."


"I'll never, ever get over this," Damron wrote to council members. "My heart is crushed."


She said it took her three years to pay off the $6,000 pledge. She recalled watering the field at all hours so the grass seed would take hold. The family mowed with their small lawnmower until a larger one was purchased.


She said the field was a gift to her husband, who is a longtime soccer coach. She said she also believed it was a gift to the city.


Steeber recalled the flurry of fundraising when the sports complex was built.


While the first soccer club no longer exists, he said that shouldn't change the good-faith effort to raise the funds. He urged the club to replace the sign.


"If we can't come to some conclusion, I guess it's in the city's best interest to not venture into cooperative fund-raising efforts with other organizations," he said.



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