Piazza on the Summer League Meeting (Be there tonight)

Tonight, the Parks Department will be holding a meeting for the interested parties on the possible takeover of the summer volleyball leagues.

I’ve asked the head of the Parks Department, Bob Piazza, to discuss what he hopes to accomplish tonight. He exampled as follows to me:

Tonight is for the volleyball community to hear the presentation, and others to ask their questions and make their feelings know to The Recreation Department. I really hope those concerned can be there tonight. By now, everyone knows how to reach me (rpiazza@longbeachny.org) and where to find me (at the Rec), but time is of the essence at this point, so I need to have reactions to this by the end of this week. It is then my job to make a recommendation to the City Manager.

So if you’re interested in the developments with the summer volleyball leagues, I’d recommend you head down to the Rec Center at 7PM tonight and hear what everyone has to say.

Bump, Set, Debate (Summer Volleyball Leagues)

Over the last week it was announced the City of Long Beach was likely not renewing the beach leases given to the summer volleyball leagues, but would instead turn the league into a City-run function, like the City’s softball league.

Some people, especially those connected to East End Volleyball and Evolutions Volleyball, have been up-in-arms over this City “takeover” of a program they helped grow from the ground-up.

The City argues they can run the leagues better and cheaper, while providing new equipment and better organization. Supporters of the previous league management reject that notion and don’t think its fair for a business that built itself from nothing to be dismantled once its become so successful.

As I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this, I can’t help but notice how this conversation has been shockingly mature (well, for Long Beach at least). If anything, I think the debate has been relatively civil. Residents are bringing up concerns, debating them, and in a shocking twist, the City is actually responding and engaging. Namely recently appointed Parks Director Bob Piazza has been out in front of this the entire time and has been extremely accessible.

To that point, the Parks Deparment will host a meeting on the topic tonight at 7PM at the Rec Center for those interested.

Long Beach vollerballer Terry Mcnamara met with Mr. Piazza yesterday, and had an extremely balanced and well thought out response on the Facebook page “Long Beach Volleyball Players With Voices and Votes?” I’ve posted it in full below and think it should be required reading for all those who are interested in the subject.

Gary P. and I met with Bob Piazza, director of Parks and Recreation, for about 45 minutes this afternoon. He is a good guy, very accessible, and obviously willing to meet with anyone. I will give my thoughts here and not speak for Gary.

Bob took us through the proposal that is being presented tomorrow. It talks about a league offered Tuesday through Thursday and is limited to 40 courts per night with three teams per net. The options on the table are competitive 4’s and recreational 6’s, but I imagine that may be modified as discussions continue. The plan seemed to cater to the broad spectrum of skill levels as well as the concern about the breadth of the program across the beach.

The plan does call for new equipment purchase. This is long overdue I believe. There is also a plan to award the winning teams free participation the following year, notions about opening and or closing events and the requisite t-shirt is also part of the package, because if it’s not on a t-shirt it didn’t happen in Long Beach. I welcome any new ideas to freshen up the experience.

The plan in and of itself is not a bad one in as much as there are parties within the city, tax paying and voting parties, that take issue with the peripheral activities around the leagues. The most prominent of these would be drinking, disposing of said drink after processing, and bad language and behavior. This is a public league and there are eyes and ears on the other side of the fence that are either looking for an excuse to complain, or are genuinely troubled by what they see and hear.

This is a critical issue for the city to address and one of which we are not overly cognizant. The reason we do not spend much time on this is we are volleyball players first. With all due respect there are a lot of recreational teams that are there to party first, and if a ball is available let’s play, poorly. They frequently leave more than just footprints when they depart.

Hopefully this episode will serve to develop a better product for all parties. The city needs to address non-volleyball concerns and I think we as the consumers deserve a bit better product. I know I have silently settled for what has been offered for years, just grateful that there is someone to organize and run things.

That being said I am not entirely comfortable with the city sweeping in and displacing a private enterprise that has been built over twenty plus years. Risks were taken and rewards have been earned. It is not right to force those that grew this league into what it has become to walk away empty handed.

These days outsourcing and public-private partnerships abound. I believe there is a third way to be explored here. The expertise needed to run the leagues exists and should not be squandered. The city can play a more involved role and meet the demands of other constituents.

I can’t say that I have a firm opinion either way, but I am listening and where helpful I am proposing ideas. There is a lot of passion around this topic, and rightly so, but no one should let that passion blind them from at least seeing the other point of view.