CPYL growth helping to fuel need for expansion

Before Cedar Park or Leander ever officially incorporated, Cedar Park Youth League baseball was already hard at work.

Formed in 1972, the independent youth baseball organization strives to serve all Leander ISD–area students.

"Our goal as a board is to never turn down a kid," CPYL President Scott Foster said. "Without them, we wouldn't exist, so they're essential to our success."

Despite a modest decline in enrollment this season, the 1,400-member league is growing beyond the nine-field park set aside for the group on Cypress Creek Road in Cedar Park.

Approximately two-thirds of all players hail from Cedar Park, while another 20 percent travel south from Leander. League members also travel from Lago Vista and Burnet, among other areas, to compete. In total, Foster estimates approximately 10,000 people each week visit the CPYL park for a baseball-related activity.

But as the league continues to grow near capacity, Leander city officials said they realize it may be up to them to ensure their city's youth continue to have a place to play America's pastime.

The problem: Leander has zero official ball diamonds right now, at least four fewer than a city its size ought to have, Parks Director Stephen Bosak said. In a survey issued by the city, Leander residents expressed the desire for more youth sports complexes in city limits, further increasing the need for baseball fields, he said.

The solution, Bosak said, is to build four new fields at Benbrook Ranch Park. The problem is coming up with money to finance the project.

"We're open to anything we can find," Bosak said. "But grant money is drying up, and federal money is tight."

The sense of urgency to complete the project is increased because of a 2008 deal between CPYL and the City of Cedar Park that provided the baseball organization with $1.8 million for field improvements and a two-diamond expansion. The money also covered new lighting for all nine fields, a new irrigation system and a new concession and equipment storage building.

In exchange, the group changed its named from Leander-Cedar Park Youth League to CPYL, agreed to dedicate its playing area as Cedar Park parkland and volunteers agreed Cedar Park residents must be fielded first.

"What people heard in Leander is that we're going to kick out Leander kids," Foster said. "Our goal is to not do that."

The board has advocated to keep CPYL baseball associated with Leander, he said, even though the league is unable to help fund the Benbrook Ranch Park expansion. Nonetheless, Foster said he wants CPYL to work with Bosak and the City of Leander to help ensure the two communities continue to compete as one.

"We want to be part of [that project]—what that means, we don't know," Foster said. "We just know we want to be a stakeholder in that process."

Right now, Leander's priority is solely on building the baseball diamonds, Bosak said, before the city shifts its concentration to the fields' best use.

"This is truly an 'if you build it, they will come' scenario," he said.

The project took a step forward late last year when the Leander City Council set aside $100,000 for construction and design plans for the Benbrook Ranch Park expansion. Bosak said having such an amenity in Leander would make life much easier on local families.

"Kids can stay home, parents don't have to travel to other communities," he said. "It also increases property values when there's good parks around the community."

If enough dedicated parkland money emerges for the full-scale project—estimated at approximately $2 million—construction could start late this year, Bosak said. Having the fields ready for play by 2016 is "doable," he said, if not sooner.

In the meantime, there is no magic enrollment figure that puts CPYL over capacity, Foster said. The risk, he said, is losing quality in exchange for increased capacity. Ways to remedy that problem include increasing the length of the season or reducing the number of games.

"There are lots of ideas to increase capacity and still maintain quality," Foster said.