PLANO — Some Plano parents say their city's extensive park system was designed with kids in mind. That's why they're so angry their Parks and Recreation Department is kicking some of their kids out of public parks.
Parks department leaders say the issue is space. They claim too many organized teams are holding unscheduled practices near the sports fields.
Youth leagues must schedule games with the city to use athletic fields. But it's not the fields that are creating problems. Plano Parks and Recreation officials say the issue is areas adjacent to the fields where soccer teams that just show up have been practicing for years.
The soccer dads say they never had any problems practicing at Russell Creek Park until recently, when Plano parks officials asked them to leave.
"My daughter, my team... we've been up here at that particular corner for 11 years, 22 seasons," said Dale Fritz, a soccer dad and coach. "And up until now, they've never said a word."
Parks employees told parents they're enforcing rules prohibiting anyone from using areas adjacent to fields, other than those who reserved them.
"We've practiced down here in that space for about 10 years," said Kyle Faegre, who also coaches a youth soccer team. "And that’s the first time they've come up and said, 'You can't practice here."
Richard McMakin says his son was kicked out of the park, but wasn't practicing with a team.
"As a parent, it makes me really angry," said McMakin. "My son has been down here with his buddies, throwing the football, and he's been sent away. It's a park. He's a kid, with his buddies."
About 2,200 teams with 31,000 kids play at Plano's 16 athletic sites. That doesn't include throngs of parents and siblings.
Park services manager Jim Fox says when up to 15 other teams show up unannounced to practice at Russell Creek Park, it often creates clogged neighborhood streets and disruptions to scheduled games.
"We're not really concerned about a dad that wants to kick a ball or somebody flying a kite or throwing a football or something like that," said Fox. "It's the group activity or the practices that begin to escalate the issues."
Plano Parks and Recreation officials are asking youth soccer teams to practice at smaller, neighborhood parks. But the parents say that has created a new congestion problem there, as so many teams vie for the few spaces that are available.