Hennepin awards next round of youth sports grants

This time the county is broadening its reach to include sports from sailing to rugby and has funded adaptive equipment to help kids with disabilities.

Hennepin County's youth sports grants program isn't just playing the usual games anymore.

The program -- now in its fourth year of helping local governments fund sports facilities and equipment with proceeds from the county's ballpark tax -- branched out in last week's small grants round to include ski-jump fencing, boat motors for a sailing school, rowing oars, a wrestling mat and even rucking dummies for a rugby club.

Funding also went for adaptive equipment to help kids with disabilities go cross-country skiing and ride mountain bikes, said Steve Olson, who oversees the selection process as chief operating officer of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. The county contracts with the sports commission to administer the program.

"We're funding now a spectrum of 16 different activities, as opposed to 10 before," Olson said. He added that the program is still somewhat short on funding for sports played by girls, and he said they hope to draw more applications from gymnastics and softball groups.

The county board each year approves $2 million in grants through the program, which is funded with revenue from the county's 0.15 percent sales tax levied to pay for Target Field.

Most of that money, $1.75 million, goes to large grants to build or renovate facilities; a total of $250,000 is disbursed twice a year in smaller amounts for equipment needed to make facilities playable.

Facility grants can run as high as $325,000. The equipment grants, which run up to $10,000, were added last year.

"It's one thing to have the field, it's one thing to have volunteers, but if there's not the equipment -- a pitching machine or blocking dummies or any of the things that are on here -- it's awfully tough to run a successful program," County Board Chair Mike Opat said last week.

Commissioners approved 24 grants totaling $144,400, out of 40 applications received. There were 14 recipients in all, including nine cities, three school districts and two park districts.

The next round of funding will begin this fall for facility and equipment grants. Applications will be due in October, for awards to be made in December.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

  • YOUTH SPORTS PROGRAM SPENDING

    SMALL CAPITAL/EQUIPMENT GRANTS

    City of Loretto (mower for baseball/softball fields), $10,000

    Minneapolis Park Board (cross-country equipment, mountain bikes for ski foundation), $10,000

    City of Orono (playground equipment for Crystal Bay Park), $10,000

    City of Robbinsdale (Sanborn field improvements and baseball league equipment), $10,000

    Three Rivers Parks (safety fencing and steps for ski jumps), $10,000

    Minneapolis Park Board (wrestling mat and gym equipment for Longfellow Park), $9,900

    City of Eden Prairie (utility vehicle to maintain Miller Park fields), $9,500

    Minneapolis Park Board (gym flooring for Folwell Park), $9,000

    St. Louis Park public schools (baseball equipment), $8,100

    Minneapolis Park Board (gym equipment for Kenny Park), $6,800

    Minneapolis Park Board (soccer goals, backboard and rim for Sibley Park), $6,500

    City of Crystal (basketball backboards and rims for community center), $6,400

    City of Deephaven (boat motors for sailing school), $6,000

    City of St. Louis Park (water systems, dummies and shields for football league), $5,300

    Minneapolis public schools (tennis equipment), $4,600

    City of Robbinsdale (dummies and blocking pads for football league), $4,300

    City of Rogers (goals and fencing for soccer league), $4,300

    Three Rivers Parks (oars for youth rowing club), $3,400

    Rockford public schools (soccer goals and basketball hoops), $2,100

    City of Rogers (bases for youth baseball league), $2,000

    Minneapolis Park Board (soccer goals for Waite Park), $1,800

    City of Rogers (lacrosse goals), $1,800

    City of Hopkins (goal post pads, rucking dummies and shields for rugby club), $1,300

    City of Robbinsdale (pitching machine and screens for girls fastpitch league), $1,300

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