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New Pop Warner group considers its options

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 28, 2002

NEW PORT RICHEY -- The search for a field for a new Pop Warner group is over. Then again, maybe not.

County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved its staff to work on a deal for the West Pasco Prowlers to play at Aloha Park off Darlington Road. But the 3.5-acre site might be too small. The Prowlers and Hudson Bulldogs begin play this fall, increasing the number of Pop Warner groups in the county to three. The South Pasco Predators have played at Land O'Lakes High's Gator Stadium for the past two seasons, and the Bulldogs will play at Veterans Memorial Park. The Prowlers have scrambled for a site, and Aloha Park might be the answer.

"Hopefully, it's going to work out," commission chairwoman Ann Hildebrand said. "We're better than halfway there. I'm going to be a silent cheerleader for them. "They need a home. They deserve a home. They're going to do a lot of work themselves, and they've got a lot of kids."

Prowlers treasurer Marty Bakken said about 90 boys and girls ages 5-15 had signed up before Saturday's second registration. He estimated 150-200 will fill rosters for five age levels by the time the season starts in late August.

"If that's all they're going to give us, we'll have to make it work," Bakken said.

"We've got so much to do," Prowlers vice president John Albert said. "There's basically grass, and that's it."

Bakken estimates preparing the fields with goalposts and an irrigation system and building concession booths and stands would cost about $25,000 and a lot of volunteer work.

"We'll set up a program," said commissioner Steve Simon, whose involvement in youth sports includes nine years coaching West Pasco teams in the Dixie Softball League.

"I feel very confident that we'll be able to move forward because of the parents' willingness to participate. They want to get involved. All they need is some help."

The park can accommodate only one football field. That, Bakken said, would create scheduling problems. Also, there are only about a dozen parking spaces. Hildebrand suggested car-pooling or working out an agreement to park along the streets in the neighborhood. But Bakken has another idea. Look elsewhere.

The treasurer plans to meet soon with the Starkey brothers to inquire about the developers securing land for the Prowlers. Bakken lives in Longleaf, a subdivision developed by the Starkeys.

Including the three county programs, the Greater Tampa Bay Area Pop Warner League has grown to 10 communities.

Pop Warner's expansion to Pasco is due, in part, to overcrowding in the Pasco Police Athletic League. PPAL, founded in 1976, includes 12 communities in Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando counties.

Unlike PPAL, Pop Warner has academic requirements and rewards participants as part of its Little Scholars program.

That way, cheerleading coordinator Kelly Bacci said, requiring good grades to participate falls on the league, not parents.

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