Local lacrosse players will have to wait at least another year for a new cooperative team between Unit 5 and District 87 high schools.
The Friends of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse, the advocacy arm of the Warriors club, was lobbying for approval from the school districts this fall so the co-cop team could begin play in 2019 against other Illinois High School Association schools. But school officials now say more time is needed to vet the idea and that 2020 would be the earliest possible start.
“Clearly, this is not the outcome we and many in our lacrosse community had hoped for or worked toward over the last six months,” the Friends of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse said in a statement this week. “We are disappointed for our players, families and the groups that have worked hard to support us on this journey.”
Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel said they need to spend more time evaluating the facility and maintenance needs of a lacrosse team, plus how to pay for it. Unit 5 and District 87 are both facing tight budgets. Friends of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse says it’s already raised enough private money for startup and first-season expenses and crafted a budget.
Daniel said one of the open questions is how private money might be able to support a lacrosse team, at least until the district can support it independently.
“We all value extracurricular activities. We value students having the opportunity to be involved in clubs or sports or music, whatever it may be. We know that’s beneficial for kids,” Daniel told GLT on Thursday. “At the same time, we’re all struggling with some structural deficits, specifically in our education fund. So those things have to be vetted carefully. And surely we hope not to damper the enthusiasm moving forward.”
Daniel added: “We’re all still very interested.”
District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said money is tight for many essential programs, and the Bloomington-based district is having to step in where social service programs have cut.
“When you prioritize, it’s hard to put lacrosse or any other program for that matter that is an extracurricular activity above things that are very much needed for teachers in the classroom for activities that revolve around trauma and mental health when the funding is simply not there,” he said.
Reilly said he appreciates the group’s efforts to raise the funding. But he said it’s not appropriate for the district to rely entirely on external funding to sustain any program. Daniel echoed those comments.
“The reality is we don’t have any other program that relies solely on an outside source to fund, and that’s troublesome for us quite frankly,” Reilly said. “We don’t want to rely on outside sources to keep a program growing. We want to sustain that.”
Lacrosse is fast-growing but still relatively new to IHSA. The first state champs were crowned last spring. There are 150 lacrosse teams (86 boys and 64 girls) set to compete in IHSA play in spring 2019. Of those, 11 are co-ops. That includes Dunlap and Richwoods, and Washington and Metamora, both near Peoria.
Reilly said discussions will continue and he hopes the two sides can come to a resolution by the spring, which would mean spring 2020 would be the earliest such a program could start.
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