Organization readies for new growth

They built it, and, boy, did they come. The 19.5-acre "Field of Dreams" built in 1992 to accommodate a small youth recreation program managed by Lake Travis Youth Association is now reaching maximum capacity as a result of explosive growth in the Lakeway and Bee Cave areas.

"Bee Cave is ranked the eighth-fastest growing city in Texas, and Lakeway was in the top 15," LTYA President Chad Wilbanks said. "As we look down Hwy. 71, we're seeing a ton of new growth, and if we don't make plans to increase our field space, we'll have to turn kids away from our program."

The beginnings

Founded in 1978, LTYA started with a handful of parents who wanted to provide an opportunity for kids to play organized sports.

"We had five soccer teams originally, and as we added more sports, we outgrew our space at a city park out in Lakeway," Wilbanks said. "A gentleman gave LTYA $100,000 to purchase land away from his neighborhood," he chuckled.

Where they are now

Today, LTYA offers nine different sports with more than 5,000 participants. Activities include soccer (recreational and select), baseball, cheerleading, golf, softball, tennis, football, basketball and volleyball. All of the sports are coed except for football.

"We would like to add additional sports; however, our biggest challenge is spatial capacity," Wilbanks said.

Notable LTYA alumni include former University of Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, Texas Gatorade Player of the Year in volleyball Amy Neal and former New York Jets player Luke Adkins. And LTYA's softball league has gone to several national tournaments.

"We like to win, but we are a recreational league. We're more concerned about improving the kids' development skills, making sure they have fun and that they get to play multiple positions," Wilbanks said.

Eric Roe has volunteered with LTYA for the past seven years in various capacities including coach, team manager and team dad for his son's soccer and basketball teams. He contends that LTYA is more than just sports.

"It's a big deal, in my opinion," Roe said. "It's a big part of the community. These kids go to school together, plus they play sports together. They're all connected to each other and across the whole community. It's amazing how many kids he knows and people we know through LTYA. We've established friendships that will outlast our kids going to college."

Behind the scenes

As a nonprofit organization, LTYA runs a lean operation and relies heavily on volunteers. The organization has three paid staff, a 12-member board and an army of parent volunteers to keep things running smoothly.

"The great thing about nonprofits is when you get a group of individuals who really put aside their self-interests to do something for the kids, it just works phenomenally well," said Wilbanks, who has served as LTYA president for the past two years.

"We are entirely self-sufficient, which is one of the things we're really proud of," he added.

Funding comes from registrations, sport sponsorships and what board members are able to raise. LTYA does not receive any money from local, state or federal government. Funds go toward scholarships for kids who need assistance as well as a reserve for purchasing additional land.

What's next

LTYA plans to launch a capital improvement campaign in the spring to improve the current fields and add additional field space to meet growing needs.

"The challenge out here is that land is so expensive and not always flat. In a perfect world, we'd love to have about 40 acres," Wilbanks said.

"We'd really love to recruit more volunteers that have expertise in areas like engineering, land management, real estate and landscaping. We also have a ton of professional athletes out here. It's great to get them involved with the kids and show them what it takes to be successful. We can never have enough volunteers, and we're always open to new ways of doing things."

Lake Travis Youth Association, Office: 2101 Lakeway Blvd., Ste. 115, Lakeway

Field of Dreams, 13909 Hwy. 71 West, Bee Cave, 261-1900,