Sports

City athletic fields taking shape by community center

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The 20 acres behind the Bowling Green community center are gradually taking shape – with soccer goals to score, obstacles to climb, and soon open grassy fields to play on. Last year, four of the 20 acres just south of the community center were turned into “pristine game fields,” said Kristin Otley, director of the parks and recreation department. That was the first goal for that site in the five-year master plan, Otley reported to the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board last week. Then an obstacle course was built for those wanting an extra challenge. And a portion of the acreage is being restored as a natural prairie area. Next the remaining 12 acres or so will be leveled and reseeded for an open grassy play space. “The plan has always been to level and seed,” so the site will be “playable for anything.” In time, the space could be used for some outdoor fitness classes, Otley said. Parking for the athletic site is in front of the community center, so a trail will be paved between the parking lot and the fields. And since Newton Road has flooded twice in recent years and required closure of the community center, the paved trail may be wide enough to be used as an emergency roadway from Haskins Road to the community center. Eventually, restrooms and more storage may be added to the athletic fields as well, Otley said. A fence was erected last year along Haskins Road to keep soccer balls from bouncing in the road and kids chasing after them. And earlier this year, a fence was constructed between the athletic fields and the fairgrounds to the south by the National Tractor Pulling Association. The policies approved by the board for use of the fields state that the space is designed for sports such as lacrosse, rugby, soccer and volleyball. The site will be used primarily as a game field site for various sport leagues and tournaments. Upon approval of the…


BGSU grad launches petition drive to save Forrest Creason

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A Perrysburg woman hoping to reverse Bowling Green State University’s decision to close the Forrest Creason Golf Course at the end of the current season. The decision was announced in March. Cheryl Joyce, a 1986 BGSU alumni and retired WBGU-TV employee, said she was approached by a fellow member of the club who said something should be done convince university officials to change their minds about the fate of the course. A family issue prevented Joyce from acting then, but about a week ago, she launched a petition drive on change.org (see petition). The petition, addressed to BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey and Chief Financial Officer Sherideen Stoll, has attracted 81 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. For Joyce, who started playing at the course 30 years ago, it is a treasure that merits more investment by BGSU, not closing. “It’s part of the community.” People from college students to senior citizens use the course. “It’s busy,” she said. “It’s not as busy as it used to be, but it’s busy.” Part of its appeal, she said, is that it’s an accessible course. “Forrest Creason is a great course for the average golfer. It’s not a high end country club where you have to dress to the nines to play golf.” While it has its share of hazards, sand traps and water, those add to its appeal without making too difficult to play whether for a beginner, a senior citizen, or a woman, she said. The course is where Joyce started playing golf in 1988 after she began working for BGSU. Now she runs two golf leagues at the course and volunteers in the clubhouse. If that clubhouse could be updated, she said, it may help attract more golfers. Finding a way to control the geese, she said, would be another improvement. Dave Kielmeyer, spokesman for BGSU, said that a consultant was hired to look at what the course needed. The consultant found it would require a $900,000 investment to bring it up to where…


Skateboard, scooter sports teach more than stunts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Cautious adults cringed as the carefree youth demonstrated their skate park skills – flipping and twisting in the air – seeming to defy gravity. The kids show up almost every day to use the skate park in Bowling Green’s City Park, riding their skateboards, scooters, BMX and mountain bikes. Last week, the youth demonstrated their skills for the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. Many of them have been inspired and instructed by Don DiBartolomeo and Matt Bowley, of The Right Direction, a non-profit organization that uses action sports to teach life skills. “He took a childhood activity, riding a bike, and parlayed it into a career,” Kiwanis member Scott Seeliger said of DiBartolomeo. “They’ve affected the lives of young people.” The Right Direction teaches kids far more than stunts on their skateboards and scooters. The organization teaches time management, organization and communication, DiBartolomeo said. The youth learn practical skills, like how to work on their bikes, and community skills like how to create a fundraiser to aid local organizations. Last year, the kids performed 3,500 hours of community service and collected 2,000 pounds of food to donate to local food pantries. “It gives the kids a chance to step out of their little bubble,” DiBartolomeo said, and be part of the bigger community. And the skate park in City Park gives them a safe place to practice their skills. When the skate park was first constructed, some questioned whether it would get much use. But nearly every day, kids are at the park, fine-tuning their stunts. “It gives these kids something to take interest in,” DiBartolomeo said. And they show their appreciation for the site by keeping it clean from trash and graffiti. “They kids are very respectful.” “These guys take care of this like it’s their own house,” Bowley said of the skate park. For many of the youth, action sports filled a hole in their lives, Bowley said. They aren’t the kids who fit into traditional sports like football or basketball,…


Dunn hits home run with Hometown Hero award

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Playing ball at Carter Park is a rite of passage for many Bowling Green children. It’s where they learn to run for first base, not third after hitting the ball. It’s where their families fill the bleachers to root them on. It’s where they grab a handful of gummy worms and a slush after hot nights on the field. So Modern Woodmen recently honored the man who has devoted 41 years to the BG Youth Baseball program as a “Hometown Hero.” Tim Dunn was recognized at the Carter Park diamonds last month, and the fans seemed to appreciate the honor, since Modern Woodmen paid for hot dogs and drinks for anyone interested. “About 400 people took them up on it,” Dunn said. Many of the young ball players may be unfamiliar with Dunn and this enduring role with the youth baseball program. He started in 1976 by taking care of the grounds as a kid. He went on to umpire in high school, became Pee Wee League commissioner, then president of the BG Youth Baseball and BG Pee Wee League. Dunn has held that position since 1982. He coached teams for years, but now focuses on more administrative items like the scoreboards, sponsorship contracts, and organizing eight tournaments a year. Dunn still enjoys watching games from the stands, but now he usually has a pen and pad, so he can take notes on issues that need fixed. He knows a lot of people are counting on him and the program. This year there are nearly 400 children in the youth baseball program. Some years, the number reaches 500. It is a summertime staple for many Bowling Green kids, ages 4 to 15. Dunn knows it’s programs like this that start lifetime loves of the sport. He watches as kids start pretty raw in April and polish some skills by July. “They learn putting the gloves on their right hand, while they are digging in the grass,” he said. “The light really does…


BG Schools hears good financial news, hires new athletic director

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Education was rich with good news Tuesday evening. The board members learned the district’s finances have taken a turn for the better. They voted to hire the varsity football coach as the athletic director. And they handed out awards for everything from art and math to clean kitchens. Adam Dirk Conner, high school math teacher and varsity football coach, was hired as the athletic director with a salary of $72,500. Conner said after the meeting that he plans to continue coaching football.  His goals as athletic director include supporting the coaches and athletes, plus work toward improving the athletic facilities. Conner said he also supports drug testing of athletes, which the board has discussed. “I’m all in favor of it,” he said. District Treasurer Rhonda Melchi presented the district’s five-year forecast – with some good news. “We’re more confident our state funding will be more stable,” Melchi said. Meanwhile, the district saw its expenditures drop as new people were hired at lower rates than retiring teachers, fewer employees were on family insurance, and the worker’s compensation expenses were lower than expected. Melchi said she is still projecting a deficit in 2020, “but it’s not near as big,” she said. “We’ve done a good job managing taxpayers’ dollars,” Scruci said after the meeting. “We’re happy where we are,” though nothing is certain until after the state budget is done. Melchi also presented numbers to the board about the loss seen when students living in the district go to school elsewhere. The statistics showed $283,677 leaving the district for students with special needs, $258,000 for students with autism, $464,594 for community school transfers, and $590,160 for students lost to other districts through open enrollment. While losing $1.6 million, the district does get to keep $498,946 through the state’s formula. That leaves local taxpayers footing the bill for the lost funding. “We plan so we can cover our expenses,” Melchi said. In other business, Scruci recognized local businesses that support…


BG Schools athletic director resigns after 9 months

The athletic director hired by Bowling Green City Schools last June has resigned after getting an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. As the district begins its search for a new athletic director to replace Jonas Smith, former athletic director Mike Vannett has agreed to fill the position on an interim basis. “He was offered a position that he couldn’t pass up,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said Friday afternoon about Smith. Smith did not reveal what the position was, but said there would be a press conference Saturday announcing his new job. Scruci said he is pleased with the job Smith did in his brief stay at Bowling Green. Smith, whose annual salary was $90,000, believed in putting academics ahead of athletics and believed in being accessible to parents. Prior to coming to Bowling Green, Smith served as athletic director for Dayton Public Schools, where he oversaw seven high schools and a $3.6 million renovation of the district’s Welcome Stadium. Scruci said he was attracted to Smith’s 20 years of experience overseeing a large program, his reputation in the state, his winning record at Dayton, and his success securing corporate sponsorships for the renovated stadium. When hired last summer to replace retiring Scott Seeliger, Smith said he was attracted to the “very welcoming” community, the good schools, and the potential to build relationships in Bowling Green.


Pro soccer player Robbie Rogers finds emotional release playing out of the closet

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Soccer star Robbie Rogers should have been happy. At 24 he had achieved so much of what he’d been dreaming about and working for since he was 7. He’d won a national collegiate championship in his freshman year at the University of Maryland. Played on the US National team. Played in the Olympics. Won a professional championship with the Columbus Crew. And now was supporting himself as a soccer player on an English team. Yet time and again he found himself after a victory alone in his room, feeing hollow. “Why am I not happy?” he found himself wondering. “Why am I not out celebrating with my friends?” While he was showing the world what kind of soccer player he was, Rogers was not showing even those closest to him who he really was beneath the surface, a gay man. “Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity” he told an audience at Bowling Green State University. “It hid my secret and gave me more joy than I could imagine.” Rogers visited BGSU at the invitation of We Are One Team, a student organization that promotes diversity and inclusion through sports, as part of its Our Voices series. A breaking point came in 2012. As he peddling on a stationary bike in England, he overheard two teammates’ casual, homophobic banter. It was the kind of talk he’d heard often, and he realized something had to change. He thought to himself: “There’s no possible way I can come out in this world. … I made the decision at that point I would retire and come out. … It was time to discover myself away from football.” He told his parents, conservative Catholics, that he was gay. Then he came out publically. He was accepted into the London College of Fashion. “Honesty is a bitch,” he said. “But honesty makes so simple and clear.” On a visit back to California to visit his parents, his agent asked if he’d travel to a Nike event in Portland,…


BGSU closing Forrest Creason golf course at end of season (Update)

Bowling Green State University University announced this morning that it will close its Forrest Creason golf course at the end of the 2017 season. The University determined that the course cannot reverse more than a decade of declining revenues and a mounting operating deficit given the northwest Ohio golf market and national trends. “This is not a decision we took lightly,” said University spokesman Dave Kielmeyer in this mornings statement. “We hired a consultant, developed a study and closely reviewed our options. Even with significant investment to make the course more competitive, it is unlikely that Forrest Creason could be a break-even operation. In today’s higher education environment, we simply can’t ask our students to continue to subsidize the golf course.” Kielmeyer later in an interview said the university lost $120,000 on the golf course in the past year, an expense that has been steadily climbing for the past decade. Usage is also down significantly. With the golf industry taking a hit nationally, it no longer “made any sense” for BGSU to operate a course. The university does not have any firm plans about how the land the course sits on will be used. “We want to get the community involved in the discussion,” Kielmeyer said. That discussion will likely begin in fall. The statement issued by the Office of Marketing & Communications continued: The University study identified the need for significant capital investments to address shortcomings at the course to make it more marketable. Challenges identified include an inadequate clubhouse, no outdoor shelter facilities, no banquet facility or food service, and the need for a new irrigation system. BGSU undertook the study as part of its response to Governor John Kasich’s Ohio Task Force on Affordability and Efficiency in higher education and House Bill 64, which requires public universities to assess non-core assets to find efficiencies and identify opportunities to lower costs for students. Kent State University also opted to close its golf course in 2016. There are currently three golf courses in the city of Bowling Green and four…


BGSU’s We Are One Team to host Robbie Rogers, March 15

From WE ARE ONE TEAM We Are One Team (WA1T), an award-winning initiative to promote social justice through sport at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), will present soccer star Robbie Rogers, who has made history by becoming the first openly gay male athlete to compete in one of the five major North American Sports Leagues, as its 2017 spring speaker for the WA1T: Our Voices educational series. On Wednesday, March 15, at 6 p.m. in Olscamp 101, Rogers will be visiting BGSU to share his powerful story about how coming out has affected his soccer career and life. The event, titled “We Are One Team (WA1T) Presents: Robbie Rogers – Coming Out to Play,” is open to the public. “I couldn’t be more excited to visit BGSU in March. I’m extremely inspired by We Are One Team (WA1T) and look forward to sharing my experiences as an openly gay athlete as well as to meet the students who in many ways have motivated me to continue to live my life with purpose and passion,” Rogers says. Rogers has made a name for himself in the soccer world and beyond. He was first introduced to the game when he was four years old, and ever since then he has continued to train and follow his passion. He has played for the Columbus Crew, Leeds United, Stevenage and was a former member of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer team. Currently, he plays for the Major League Soccer Club L.A. Galaxy, representing number 14 on the field as a defender. Rogers is not only an inspirational athlete on the field, but also uses his platform as an athlete to promote social justice off the field. He has shared his unique story with others through his book”Coming Out to Play. “The book focuses on his journey from keeping his sexuality secret to stepping forward and becoming a trailblazing, out and proud professional athlete. Rogers is a role model for those who may not have found their voices and who may be hindered to go after…


Ice arena gets new name as part of golden anniversary celebration

  From BGSU Bowling Green State University will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ice arena with a weekend full of activities. That includes: The ceremony officially changing the Ice Arena’s name to the Slater Family Ice Arena. Appearances by some of BGSU’s greatest hockey players and Olympian Scott Hamilton ’94 (Hon.) Mike “Doc” Emrick ’76 doing the play-by-play for the BGSU Hockey game. A free figure skating show featuring Hamilton and two-time U.S. national champion Alissa Czisny ’09. EVENTS Friday, Feb. 10 BGHS/Bobcat Hockey vs. Findlay, 7 p.m. Skate with the Bobcats, 8:30 – 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11 Pre-game Party and Coaches Chalk Talk, 3:30 – 5 p.m. BGSU vs. Mercyhurst, 5:05 p.m. Ice Arena 50th Anniversary Celebration (emceed by “Doc” Emrick), 7:30 – 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12 Figure Skating Show, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Community Open Skate, 3:30 – 5:20 p.m. To register: https://emsregics.bgsu.edu/IceArena50th


BG foundation gives grants to community groups

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Community organizations were given grants earlier this week to bring music, sports, reading and more to Bowling Green. The grants, from the Bowling Green Community Foundation, are intended to help the very young to the very old, and everyone in between. The annual grant program began after the 1993 BG Leadership class started the foundation in order to help local groups serve the community, explained Cal Bowers, president of the foundation. “What you’re doing speaks to the vibrancy of our community. You’re at the core of it,” said Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards. This year’s grants total $29,000 for 14 different projects. “That’s an impact to this community,” Bowers said. Following is a list of all the projects awarded grants. BG Area Community Bands – $2,250 for a community band festival. “This is our 10th year as a community band. We feel we have become a staple in the community,” said Ardy Gonyer. “We’re very grateful for the support of Bowling Green.” Thom Headley explained the grant will help the band put on a concert with a guest conductor on May 6. BG City Schools – $1,000 for One Book BG literacy program. Two third grade teachers, Jeni Niekamp and Jonelle Semancik explained the grant will help the schools purchase books for every pre-kindergarten through fifth grade student. The reading program unites families and the community around one common book. “It’s created to promote a love of learning,” Semancik said. BG Parks and Recreation Department – $5,000 for the natural obstacle course. Ivan Kovacevic, of the parks and rec department, said the outdoor obstacle course behind the community center has already been the site of the Zombie Mud Run last fall. BG Parks and Recreation Department – $5,000 for waterpark splashpad creature. The splashpad additions help complete the area for the youngest pool users. “They are both really true community projects,” Kovacevic said of the pool and obstacle course. BG Youth Hockey Association – $1,100 for rink system upgrade. The hockey program…


NCAA honors We Are One Team at BGSU for promoting diversity and inclusion

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The NCAA thinks there’s something special about the We Are One Team, a student-driven project that uses sports to promote diversity, acceptance and inclusion at Bowling Green State University. The NCAA thinks the project is so special that it is giving WA1T its Award for Diversity and Inclusion. President Mary Ellen Mazey along with founder Yannick Kluch will travel to Nashville in January to accept the honor. “BGSU has long history of this,’ Mazey said. “This is really what we’re all about and have been for many years.” Support for diversity is written into the Falcon Creed, which also originated with students. That’s evident, she said, in the president’s office where an African American president served for 16 years followed by two female presidents as well as in the student body which is about 23 percent people of color and international. It’s demonstrated, she said, in Not In Our Town and It’s on Us, all projects with which WA1T collaborates. Kluch said that the project grew from his own experience as an international student. He came here in 2012 to study as a graduate student in Popular Culture from his native Hamburg, Germany. He admits he had some reservations about coming from a metropolitan city to “small town Ohio.” But he found his place, in part thanks to sports. Early on he attended a football game, American football, not the soccer he played back home. He didn’t know anything about the game, he just cheered when everyone else did. That’s where made his first Bowling Green friends. Now studying for a doctorate in Media and Communication, his interest in diversity led him to think about how “the emotional power of sports” could be harnessed to bring people together. Last January he and two other graduate students in Media and Communication, Chelsea Kannert and Christian Thompson, started discussions about how to do that. WA1T was launched in September. “It has definitely been a crazy ride,” Kluch said. “In our short amount of time we’ve definitely…


BGSU trustees to vote on naming ice arena for Slater family

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COOMMUNICATIONS The Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees will be asked to approve the naming of the “Slater Family Ice Arena” at its Dec. 9 board meeting. The naming is in recognition of a gift from the Scott Slater family. Slater ’73 enrolled at BGSU in the fall of 1969 and first attended Falcon hockey games with his future in-laws, who had season tickets. Nearly 50 years later, Slater still has those same seats in the upper level of the Ice Arena, and in the decades since, he has done much more than just cheer for the Falcons. Slater and his family were major contributors to the “Bring Back the Glory” campaign that secured the BGSU hockey program. Now, the family is making a $2 million transformational gift to advance the future of the facility that means so much to them. “The Slaters are a true Falcon Family,” said Mary Ellen Mazey, Ph.D., president of Bowling Green State University. “Through the years, they have made the University central to their lives with support of BGSU Hockey and many community programs such as high school hockey and figure skating. It is fitting, and inspirational, that their dedication become a permanent part of the University with the naming of the Slater Family Ice Arena.” Over many years, Scott Slater’s six children were involved in youth and high school hockey and figure skating programs at the Ice Arena. His four sons have each been part of the highly successful Bowling Green High School hockey program and been on teams that won state championships or finished as state runners-up, while his two daughters participated in figure skating. Now his grandchildren are “rink rats” on the ice at BGSU, and Slater and his family have made another generous gift to secure the future of the facility that is so close to their hearts, and will now carry their name. “It is a BGSU-owned asset, but my family has always viewed it as more a community asset,” he said….


Dave Horger goes for knockout against cancer

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It seems fitting that Dave Horger envisioned his cancer as a heavyweight boxer beating him to a pulp in the first round. The name of his opponent in the ring – multiple myeloma. It’s also fitting that Horger, the radio voice of local news and sports for decades here in Bowling Green, would pull a rope-a-dope on his opponent and then come out swinging. Horger, with WFOB radio for 27 years then the 88.1 morning show for another five years, had become the beloved voice of Bowling Green. He was the voice of local news in the mornings and play-by-play sports at night. He grew up in East Liverpool, on the other side of Ohio, listening to Bob Prince broadcast the Pittsburgh Pirates. Because of the time zone differences, once the Pirates were done playing, he and his dad could sometimes catch the last couple innings of Harry Caray announcing the St. Louis Cardinals. “I remember thinking, I could do this,” Horger said of doing play-by-play on the radio. “I never felt it was a talent as much as it was a knack.” It was a knack that Horger soon proved he had. In 1971, he started hanging out at the East Liverpool radio station. He would grab news off the Associated Press machine, get some sports copy and some records and give it a whirl. “They were kind enough in the evenings to let me go in and use their production room. I’d do my little show that nobody was hearing but me,” he said. He would then play it back, reel to reel, “so I could hear how bad I was.” One night, he was playing around, introducing the Carpenters’ song, “Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down,” – which by the way, he was not a big fan of. But one of the radio executives liked his voice and his style. “That’s just what we want for a disc jockey at night,” he said. To this day, Horger…


BG lease of city land for golf course questioned

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The golf course in the center of Bowling Green has long been a source of community pride and more recently a source of complaints of privileged use of public property. The city’s lease of the 60 acres to Bowling Green Country Club expires in 2025. The terms of the lease allow the city to terminate the lease anytime after 2015, with two year’s prior notice required. City officials recently received a detailed letter on the golf course lease, suggesting that the city view its options before the 2025 deadline. The request came from Bowling Green citizen Lynn Ackerson, who previously asked questions about the site at a park and recreation board meeting. “Raising the topic of the BG Country Club lease of 80 percent of City Park sometimes causes voices to raise and strong emotions to emerge,” Ackerson wrote to city officials. The nine-hole country club course is one of three golf courses in the city. “The BG Country Club Golf Course is apparently an important part of BG’s history,” she continued. “The semi-private BG Country Club is also perhaps one of BG’s best kept secrets and frankly a mystery to those that are newly aware of this gem and its relationship to our wonderful network of parks.” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards responded with a history of the site, explaining that City Park was the original Wood County Fairgrounds. “The current arrangement indeed goes back that far,” Edwards wrote. The Wood County Agricultural Society sold the land to the city in 1928, with some records indicating that the lease arrangement predates the sale, the mayor said. The country club owns the roughly 1.5 acres where the pro shop and restaurant sit on the north end of the golf course. “This nearly 100-year private-public partnership has worked well for Bowling Green residents,” Edwards wrote. “They have benefited from a golf course for recreational purposes at reasonable rates without city dollars being used for the maintenance and upkeep associated with the property.” In…