Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem Township Bulldogs want to keep their turf

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Dozens of parents and players from the Bethlehem Township Athletic Association (BTAA) packed Monday night's township commissioners meeting, worried about the future of their organization. 

Their concerns were prompted by discussions at a recent meeting about whether the teams should pay for field space.

Earlier this month, Commissioner Michael Hudak said the BTAA was costing the township $90,000 a year: a $40,000 annual contribution, $30,000 in field maintenance, and another $20,000 from lost field rentals.

He suggested possibly charging the BTAA to use the fields.

Supporters of the BTAA Bulldogs -- the team name used for the organization's soccer, wrestling, cheerleading, football, softball and lacrosse teams -- say that additional fees will lead the BTAA to either raise its fees, cut programs, or simply fold.

"To add a cost would be devastating to our organization and it would be devastating for our children," said Vincent Spina, a former BTAA president.

He was joined by a number of parents and children, many of them wearing black and yellow Bulldog t-shirts.

Spina noted that the BTAA, a private group not affiliated with the township, took a $15,000 cut in its annual contribution five years ago without complaint. 

Hudak said Monday he's still researching the matter.

He said he supports the Bulldogs, but said that he'd gotten a number of calls from residents angry that a private organization had gotten public funding.

He said he also wants to work on a policy that would control athletic field rentals.

Commissioner Thomas Nolan, meanwhile, said he doesn't support charging the Bulldogs, saying the good the organization does outweighs the cost to the township.

"I do not want to diminish that program based on the dollar sign," he said.

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