The Union Board of Aldermen approved two youth baseball tournaments at its special Monday, June 22, meeting, but it also heard a rare in-person complaint from a community member about planned beer and wine sales at the tournaments.
The two nearly identical agreements will allow Greater Midwest Sports Association and Game 7 Baseball Inc. to put on tournaments at Veterans Memorial Park. Greater Midwest will hold its tournament June 26-28 and the Game 7 tournament will be July 10-12.
The city will charge both groups $125 per field, per day, for a total of $1,875 for each weekend.
The board, in its role as parks, buildings, development and public service committee, authorized Parks Director Chad Pohlmann to negotiate the agreements at its Monday, June 15, meeting.
The city’s initial goal was to partner with a civic group or business on the alcohol sales. Pohlmann told the board Monday that he reached out to community groups and restaurants, but the short time frame didn’t allow for them to put an agreement together.
That means Union is unlikely to have beer sales at this weekend’s 40-team Greater Midwest tournament, but Pohlmann plans for the city to put together its own “beer garden” for people 21 and older at the Game 7 tournament in July.
The city plans to get a picnic license to sell beer, but expects to have a full liquor license for beer and wine later in the summer.
Pohlmann expects at least two more tournaments, possibly five, to be added this year.
When she addressed the aldermen, resident Patty Bailey questioned why the city would allow a beer garden at a “child centric” event.
“I know you want to make money, but, yet somehow, I don’t think we should be selling liquor out at Veterans Park,” she said. “We’re letting 40 teams from outside of Union use it because they’re famous. We’re not letting the (Union)softball association, the baseball association or the soccer association use it.”
Alderman Paul Arand clarified that it was the local baseball and softball associations who canceled their seasons in May, before the board voted to reopen ballfields and other park facilities June 1. The leagues were offered the opportunity to play a later season and declined.
Bailey also questioned why the city is opening the ballfields to out-of-town teams, while the Union Splash-N-Swimplex will be open only to Union residents when it opens for the season July 1.
“You don’t want them at your swimming pool, but it’s OK for them to come in, maybe they’ve come in from cities that have had COVID — by the way they are,” she said. “We’ve had very few cases here because we’ve been socially responsible in Union. But then they’re going to come in and drink, and who’s saying they’re not going to spit on some people?”
Things got heated when Bailey asked aldermen if they think “children don’t matter.”
“I don’t appreciate you putting words in my mouth,” Alderman Karen Erwin said. “I will tell you that the state of Missouri is all open now . . . if you’re not comfortable, or whatever, then you guys take it upon yourselves to do whatever it is you think you need to be comfortable.”
Bailey also asked why concession stands will be open at the baseball tournaments but not at the pool. Pohlmann said that’s because the baseball complex is much larger, with more room for social distancing.
Bailey was not recognized to speak until after the vote had taken place and the meeting adjourned. Mayor Rod Tappe restarted the meeting to hear from her but the board didn’t vote again.
It might be understandable for the board to forget to recognize a community speaker. Bailey was the first member of the public who wasn’t directly involved with an agenda item to speak to the board in at least four months.
Bailey spoke to Pohlmann about her concerns last week, and Pohlmann said he encouraged her to address the board herself.
Pohlmann said the beer garden will be open to the public, not just those attending the tournaments. He encouraged Union residents to attend the tournaments, especially this weekend’s event, which he said will feature high-quality players.
Pohlmann was not sure if the public will be charged to attend the tournaments.
Alderman Bob Schmuke asked Pohlmann if he expects competition for tournaments to be impacted by St. Louis County reopening its ballfields. Pohlmann said his understanding is that’s only for league play, not tournaments.
Veterans Memorial Park was built to host large tournaments, but these will be the first it has had since opening in 2017. The city looks to make a good impression for next year, when all fields in the area could be open and competition for events more fierce.
While the city will train seasonal concession workers for the tournaments, it will also get help from Union Baseball Association volunteers. They will make food like bratwurst, chicken on a stick and cheeseburgers to appease families who spend all day at the ballfields.
“They can’t just eat nachos, a Snickers and popcorn,” Pohlmann told The Missourian. “We’re trying to provide better sources of protein.”