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LBW athletics welcome donation

In a sportsman-like gesture, the Andalusia City Council voted Tuesday to award $7,500 to the Athletics Department of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College - Andalusia.

"We use their facilities quite a good bit," Mayor Earl Johnson said. "The programs we use out there include camping, softball, baseball, and basketball. The LBW Athletics want a contribution, because their department has fallen on hard times."

The department was requesting municipalities and other organizations in the area contribute a total of $75,000.

"That's the goal they set," Johnson said. "The shortfall comes from cut-backs in the state-funding. Some of the first programs to be cut are extra-curricular activities and athletics."

Heavy cut-backs in the state educational budget for Fiscal Year 2005, which would hurt athletics and operational funding for the college, are expected to be in effect.

"We have got to get the money to fill budgets and maintain what we have," Athletics Director Steve Helms said. "The state cuts projected for 2005 are expected to have a direct effect on us."

Helms added the $75,000 goal will help soften the blow of the expected budget crisis.

"With the money, we will take things to par in preparation of the (financial) dip," he said. "We will try to update a lot of equipment and get everything in order."

Some of the equipment includes uniforms and other utilities imperative to the sports programs.

"We need new lighting on the baseball fields," Assistant Dean Joree Jones said. "Currently, we don't have the lighting needed for night games, and games on the weekend and during the week could draw large crowds at night.

"The baseball program is renowned in the Southeast," she continued. "Steve has a list of about 11 players in the minors from the program. He is talking about having those players come back and do a camp in February."

Other utilities include a possible press box, security, travel expenses, and lighting on all of the sports fields and tennis courts according to Helms.

"Money will be used for lighting on dugouts and a possible press box for the 2005 Babe Ruth World Series, if bids are taken on the tournament through the city," he said. "Helms added the city and the community had so much success with the Babe Ruth tournament held over the summer that a youth league World Series tournament might be in the cards for the future.

The city and community will benefit from the improvements made possible through the contributions, said Jones and Helms.

"Local people use our facilities," Jones said. "We helped host the (Babe Ruth) baseball tournament, and we are currently talking about hosting the World Series for little leaguers. We also hold a number of baseball and basketball camps for children. We want to benefit the athletic department for the community, such as improvements for state and district tournaments.

"Right now, the tennis courts are in good condition," she continued, "And Mayor Johnson said they no longer maintain the tennis courts for the city. So, some of the money will be used to maintain and run them. We have a good working relationship with the city. We also lease the golf course to the city."

"The money surely would help out with the use of the facilities here and upgrade a lot of them, such as the softball complex," agreed Helms. "I'd love to see a softball tournament for the ladies, and we could improve the facility to have a nice place to hold the event."

According to Helms, each student has a $40 activity budget, which is required through the state.

"We're a small college, and many funds we have (through the annual fund-raiser) are insufficient," he said. "We've raised about $15,000 to $30,000, and we'll need to raise about that much again."

The insurance costs for the students aren't helping matters any, said Helms.

"We pay about $25,000 on insurance, and that figure is without the $0-$2,000 deductible," he said. "The total figure for insurance and membership dues comes to about $35,000."

The department has a long way to go to reach the goal, which Jones said she hopes to reach by January 2004, but Helms said they will survive even if they don't get all the money hoped for.

"We'll be able to get by," he said. "And we appreciate everything the community does for us. We just hope to continue doing the right things and to keep hosting these great events."