Effort to save Carson City’s Western Nevada College athletics begins in earnest | NevadaAppeal.com
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Effort to save Carson City’s Western Nevada College athletics begins in earnest

Helaine Jesse Morres, president of the newly formed Athletic Foundation of Western Nevada explains the goals of the foundation to community members on Tuesday.
Jim Grant / jgrant@nevadaappeal.com | Nevada Appeal

The effort to save Western Nevada College athletics began in earnest Tuesday when a large number of supporters filled room 2149 at the Legislative Building.

And while those in attendance found out the effort is going to be somewhat of a daunting task, they also found out those leading the effort to save WNC’s baseball and softball programs have hit the ground running.

WNC recently announced its plan to disband its baseball and softball programs after the 2016 season. Former WNC vice president Helaine Jesse Morres, who led the effort to begin athletics at the school in 2002, is now leading the effort to save the programs. She announced the Athletics Foundation of Western Nevada has been formed, an entity completely separate from the college and the already established WNC Foundation, which Morres noted can only provide so much help for athletics.

After the meeting, she also announced $130,000 has already been raised to save the athletic programs. She said $33,650 has been raised to be donated this year, with another $95,500 raised in the form of five-year pledges.

“Our goal is to fund Wildcat athletics,” said Morres, adding that will mean for the program to be permanently funded, so its future will never be in doubt. She said for that to happen, the foundation is going to have to raise $250,000 to $300,000 a year. Morres is hopeful to reduce that figure by working with the college.

And that’s not including the immediate facility needs of the programs. Because of Title IX requirements, WNC will need to build an on-campus softball field at the cost of $250,000. The softball field would be located somewhere adjacent to John L. Harvey Field, which is used for baseball.

Since 2002 when the effort began to establish athletics at WNC, there has always been a plan for an on-campus softball field. WNC has been able to put off those plans for years, but eventually Title IX requirements would require the school to show significant progress in making the softball field a reality and now that time has come.

WNC baseball coach D.J. Whittemore said $85,000 is also needed now for a new field turf infield at John L. Harvey Field. He said with a new infield, the field could be continued to be used for another 12 to 15 years, but also noted an additional $50,000 a year needs to be raised to maintain the field turf. Maintenance for the field turf, which has been in use since 2005, has been cheaper than if a natural grass field had been used.

He said the operating costs for the WNC baseball and softball programs is $390,000 a year, not including the facility maintenance needs such as the field turf. Numbers sourced at the meeting said the revenue WNC athletic programs generate can be as much $1 million a year to the city, when it comes to students and others coming into Carson City for housing, hotels and restaurants when visiting and living in the community.

In announcing that figure, Sam Herceg, another member of the athletics foundation board, said he didn’t know if that was a significant amount for community, which prompted Carson City Mayor Robert Crowell to say, “it is.”

Another key issue is the possibility the Legislature re-instates bridge gap funding for Great Basin College and WNC. The $1.95 million would go a long way in helping WNC’s athletic programs stay afloat. Whittemore noted College of Southern Nevada has been able to add three athletic teams in women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer.

Among other dignitaries at the meeting was Carson City Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill, who talked about the bridge gap funding.

“I’ve expressed my displeasure,” said O’Neill about the loss of that funding. He also said he’s talked to Assembly leadership about adding back the funding and those who support WNC need to make their feelings known as well to the Legislature and to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who didn’t include the bridge gap funding — which could mean up to an additional $5 million for WNC and Great Basin — in his budget.

Others on the foundation board include Steve Lewis — who was also there in 2002 when the effort to establish WNC athletics began — and retired University of Nevada baseball coach Gary Powers. Lewis said fundraising ideas are underway, adding Charlie Abowd at Adele’s has talked about a $200-a-plate fundraiser for WNC athletics.

Attendees also mentioned the positive impact WNC’s student-athletes have on the community. WNC’s student-athletes can be seen helping out in youth athletic programs and the baseball and softball teams have received Academic All-American honors for the past several years.

Morres also noted the goal of the athletics foundation is to help with sports programs at the K-12 level as well. For more information about the athletics foundation or to make a donation, contact Morres at helainemorres@centurylink.net.