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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

Area interest in soccer grows while pool use shows decline

Zach Reiner, 8, does a cannonball into the community pool in Delta. Zach Reiner, 8, does a cannonball into the community pool in Delta.

Interest in soccer is kicking up in Fulton County, but filling municipal pools has gone less than, well, swimmingly this summer, area parks and recreation directors say.

Archbold's soccer camp drew 72 youths this summer, up from 58 last summer, said Jennifer Kidder, village parks and recreation director. And she predicted those numbers would at least hold steady and maybe continue upward next summer.

"It's definitely a growing sport in our area," she said.

In Delta, soccer draws about 300 youngsters, making it bigger than Little League, which has about 225. However, both girls and boys play soccer, while in Little League typically only boys play, said Kevin Freeman, who coordinates Little League and coaches soccer.

Municipal swimming pools have not been as popular as usual this summer, although the latest spate of steamy weather might have changed that.

In Delta, the swimsuit crowd has been down about 10 percent from last year.

"Noticeable, but not extreme," said pool manager Bill Bierie. He blamed rain and cool weather early in the season but said that even on the hottest days the pool isn't as full as it has often been.

Perhaps that's because more local residents have installed pools at their homes, said Gary Baker, village administrator.

The village pool's opening on June 7 was also about a week later than usual. The delay was put to problems in getting the village's new water plant operating, Mr. Bierie said.

In Archbold, Ms. Kidder said the number of swimmers is the only figure down this summer in the parks and recreation department. And she blames the pool's early summer lull on rain.

"It's amazing how much difference the weather makes in everything," she said.

Rain has also drawn out the ball season in some areas.

In Delta, many Little League teams played their last games this week instead of last week as planned because of rain delays.

Archbold has had games delayed too. And its youth ball program has grown with about 750 players this summer, up from fewer than 700 last summer.

It's an affordable sport, Ms. Kidder said. The village charges $5 for youth ages 5 to 18 to play in leagues, and that includes a T-shirt.

Ball-program costs are heavily subsidized by a local income tax marked for parks and recreation.

There are so many youngsters involved in games from T-ball through baseball in Archbold that village leaders say they don't have enough fields for adult baseball and softball leagues.

That's sent some Archbold area ballplayers north to Fayette, which has 16 adult teams, up two from last year, according to Scott Wagner, parks and recreation director.

In Wauseon, the last game of the season for some youths and adults never happened because of hard rains last week. Parks and recreation employees were too busy working with 8-inch deep water, mixed with sewage from backed up toilets in the parks pavilion, to prepare soggy ballfields for eight scheduled games, said Neal Graf, city parks and recreation director.

And instead of rescheduling them this late in the season, they were simply canceled.

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