For 14 years, El Pomar Youth Sports Park has been a hosting ground for wins, losses, events, and most importantly, youth development through athletics.
The 58-acre area comprises a patchwork of nine baseball/softball fields, eight soccer/lacrosse fields, a championship-size artificial turf field and an indoor hockey rink that accommodated just over 120,000 young people last year alone. The nonprofit organization behind it, Colorado Springs Youth Sports, partners with the City of Colorado Springs to maintain the grounds, and also with local youth sports groups to connect children to teams.
Executive Director Steve Czarnecki operates out of a small office tucked into the corner of a parking lot at the heart of the park. The importance of sports in the lives of children, he says, has two layers.
"One: physical fitness and activity. As a country we've become more sedentary. Obesity has become a problem, diabetes has become a problem, and not only in adults, but in younger people as well, and getting younger. We want to see youth be active, to know we've laid the foundation of being involved in athletics, and hope they'll continue that throughout their lives.
"And then, of course, youth sports participation," he says. "Teamwork, team building, learning how to win with grace, how to lose with a good attitude — perseverance, how to be responsible for more than just yourself, how to be a team."
Czarnecki says creating an environment that's attractive and functional, where families can come and enjoy the games, including concessions, and become involved with their child's activities, is an important facet of CSYP's work.
The facilities are by reservation only to help prevent severe wear and tear from the public, but because a major trailhead to the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail begins on the property, it does remain accessible to everyone. Since 2000, several organizations and events have reserved playing time on El Pomar Park fields, and the number grows yearly.
"For example, there was a suicide prevention run that we did, and we hosted cross-country state championships," Czarnecki says. "Rush Soccer [a youth club] is going to be playing here."
Apart from creating and maintaining these partnerships with the city and community, Colorado Springs Youth Sports consistently works on identifying needs the community has and strategizing how to meet them.
"For example, maybe we need volleyball courts," Czarnecki says. "We're always just trying to see what the community needs at the time and how we can make that happen."
Czarnecki encourages parents and youths alike to visit their website, csyouthsports.net, to get more information on the organization, partnerships and how to get involved.