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Idaho Falls Parks and Rec Center turns away youth basketball teams due to lack of gym space

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IDAHO FALLS — Erin Clifford’s sophomore son has been playing winter basketball with Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation for 10 years, but he won’t be suiting up this season due to lack of gym space.

“It’s just unfortunate,” Clifford said.

The high school league has 27 teams, and although local teams are given priority, there wasn’t enough room available for all of them this season.

City spokesman Bud Cranor said the Parks and Recreation staff couldn’t recall ever having to turn away local high school teams because of reaching capacity.

“There’s only so many courts, refs and staff,” Cranor said.

Registration was due on Dec. 11 and that’s when Clifford said they registered, but were put on a waiting list.

She added there’s never been an issue in the past with signing up the day of.

“If you call in the first couple of days, you get in pretty easy. But the very last day when it’s already full, it’s going be hard,” Cranor said.

Clifford was officially informed on Dec. 18, via an email sent from Recreation Supervisor Roberto Abreo that her son’s team would not have the chance to compete.

“Due to the high demand and very limited gym space this year, we will not be able to accept more teams for this winter basketball high school league,” the email states. “We do apologize, and this will be an issue that we will address to try and avoid this from happening again in the future.”

The recreation center doesn’t have enough courts, so agreements are in place with local school districts to use their facilities as well. But Clifford was told one of the school’s gyms wouldn’t be available because it was needed for school baseball and softball teams to practice in. She believes the agreement between the city and school district is being broken, because the schools are unavailable.

But Cranor says otherwise. He says if the school districts need the gyms, they can use them and the rec center loses the extra capacity. At times, they then have to redo schedules and shuffle things around to make up games.

“The schools, they can program whatever they want in there, and then we’re kind of at the mercy of the schools and what they have available for us,” Cranor said.

Parks and Recreation is offering the spring league and giving priority to the teams who didn’t get into the winter league. The YMCA is offering a league and taking registrations now, although Clifford doesn’t see that as a step up because it’s a “really poor facility.”

“Without a place for them to play, there’s not a lot of the other options here in Idaho Falls for kids to do,” Clifford said. “It keeps them out of trouble, and when you take that away from them, then they’re going to find other things to do, unfortunately.”

Cranor told EastIdahoNews.com the Parks and Recreation staff said the school districts are always pleasant to work with. They are reaching out to them and are optimistic they’ll find ways to make it so they don’t have to turn teams away again in the future.

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