Little League cash flow hits home run

As more facts emerge about local little league baseball, 2011 seems a solid year for the sport. With more kids and sponsors on board the latest revelation is that little league’s finances are in good shape.

One of the biggest happenings is the reduction in the Cayman Islands Little League’s largest debt. Over a decade ago the group took out a loan from by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (now First Caribbean Bank) for a total of CI$1 million or US$1.2 million.

Heading into this month the league owed under half that amount, with estimates being that around CI$200,000 is left to pay.

Bear in mind the money from the loan was used to buy some 17 acres of land in George Town to establish the Field of Dreams facility.

In addition the league has steadily raised money to service the loan through public contributions, team sponsorships, field rentals and annual fund-raising events.

Little League Fund-raising Coordinator Sara Mackay states the decline in the loan has been steady in the face of new expenses.

“The league’s financials are up to date thanks to the work of Treasurer Jason Bechard,” Mackay said. “The league is also fully audited thanks to the gratis efforts of BDO, one of Cayman’s supportive financial services companies.

The Field of Dreams’ original loan is not yet paid off but significant progress has been made. We owe under $250,000 on the original sum.

“The public has to remember that it has been 22 years of free ball for kids, with 12 on the current fields. In fact those fields are very well used, day and night. The field turf surface are old and worn (they were under water in hurricane Ivan for 36 hours) and they need replacement. It’s a daunting prospect but the good news is that a new version of field turf comes with a 20-year warranty as the original stuff had a six-year guarantee.”

Mackay’s take on the fields is interesting.

Nearly three years ago field maintenance was an issue when oil prices were skyrocketing.

According to then-president Stuart Knox, the field turf in place had a maximum life expectancy of 10 years.

Knox also pointed out the turf is a petroleum-based product. Estimates at that time were it would cost US$1.8 million to re-turf all four of the fields at the Field of Dreams.

In spite of the concern with the field surface, current little league president Jim Parham states the league’s financial spot is solid.

“We had more children this year and the sponsors stepped up and the fund-raising went up,” Parham said. “We’re sitting in a decent position financially though it could always be better. We’re in a position where we can continue to do what we do. We can upkeep the fields, in fact we’re looking to improve the facilities, though it’s a continuous battle.

“The original loan for the Field of Dreams is in the low six figures at the moment. We have enough funds to pay it off but the interest rate is working well for us. In fact to pay it all off would deplete almost all of our funds in the bank. We want to keep a positive cash flow like any other business would.

“Just because the loan is almost done the league is not necessarily in a great position. It’s a constant battle. We still need help with volunteers and sponsors. Little League is going on 22 years now. We have goals in the future we’d like to reach such as adding more fields and improving the fields but that can only be done by being financially sound and continued support.”