Play ball! That’s if the community can provide enough support for Western Nevada College athletics.
An agreement has been reached to keep the WNC baseball and softball programs going through at least 2021 if fundraising goals can be met, according to WNC officials.
Members of the Athletics Foundation of Western Nevada, formed to help save the school’s athletic program, met with WNC President Chet Burton Thursday, which led to the agreement to keep Wildcat athletics going through 2021. The Athletics Foundation of Western Nevada is not affiliated with WNC.
Burton announced plans to disband the school’s athletic programs after the 2016 season, but on Friday in a released statement said he was hopeful the programs could be saved.
“This is an example of the community coming together to support a common goal of preserving two great athletics programs in an era of scarce resources,” he said.
Helaine Jesse Morres, who led the effort to establish athletics at the college when she was a vice president at the school, is now the president of the Athletics Foundation of Western Nevada.
“This is amazing,” she said. “Full-steam ahead. It’s not game over, it’s game on. We’re ecstatic.”
But there’s considerable work to be done to keep the programs going. Morres said her foundation has agreed to provide $150,000 a year from at least 2017 through 2021 to keep the programs going and added WNC has agreed to that arrangement. “The goal is to make it permanent,” said Morres about raising enough funds so the programs would never have to worry about being disbanded.
She said WNC is committed to funding the programs through 2016. She also praised Burton for his cooperation in the effort to save the programs.
In addition, the foundation has agreed to the goal of raising $85,000 for the refurbishment of the infield and outfield fence at John L. Harvey Field, where the WNC baseball team plays, by next season.
The foundation has also agreed to the goal of raising at least $250,000 for an on-campus softball facility in the next three to four years. “We’d like to get it sooner than later,” said Morres about the softball facility.
It was originally thought due to Title IX requirements there was more urgency concerning an on-campus softball facility, but Morres said the three to four year timetable was acceptable.
Morres said the foundation and WNC is committed to saving athletics.
“We’re ready to move forward to save the athletic programs,” she said.
As of early March, the foundation, which has 501(c)3 status, had already raised $133,000 in the form of one-time grants and pledges over five years. The foundation suspended fundraising until a more clear status of the future of WNC athletics was known.
Now that what needs to be done is more clear, the foundation will continue with its fundraising efforts.
Morres said the foundation will work with the Legislature and the Board of Regents, which governs WNC, to allow schools like Western Nevada more flexibility when it comes to funding athletics.
Morres also said her foundation raising funds through a community effort allows the Western Nevada College Foundation to focus on other important programs.
“If given the opportunity to continue the program we will continue to be respectful citizens, excel in the classroom, and represent Western Nevada College in a first class manner on and off the field,” WNC baseball coach D.J. Whittemore said. “From the beginning we have held one goal above all others — help the college achieve its goal of educating young men and women of Western Nevada. We are grateful for the opportunities we have been given and will continue to be now and in the future.”
WNC softball coach Leah Wentworth added, “it’s really exciting to hear they came to an agreement. This is a program that’s supported a lot of local kids. I just think it’s a really worthwhile program.”
Anyone interested in helping with the effort to continue WNC athletics can contact Morres at firstname.lastname@example.org 775-315-3757.