If Richard Wildenhaus had his way, Moffat County High School would have a new softball team.
And a hockey team. And maybe even bowling and lacrosse teams.
But with a tightening budget and cuts looming, the MCHS athletic director said he is focused more on maintaining current programs.
“I would like to add as many opportunities for our students to participate in as possible,” Wildenhaus said. “But with a 20-percent cut in our athletics and activities budget, it would be a struggle to add any new sports programs.”
The high school athletic budget, including transportation fees, operational costs and coaching salaries, is approximately $300,000 of the school district’s proposed $18.6 million budget.
Due to possible shortfalls because of decreased state funding, the school district is seeking to trim $1.7 million from the proposed budget, with about $50,000 coming from the high school athletic department.
Wildenhaus said the athletic department will not be cutting any programs.
“I fought tooth and nail to get that off the table,” he said. “I’m not interested in limiting the opportunities for our students.
“In our current situation, I want to maintain our athletics and activities.”
But the budget woes limit the high school’s ability to add new teams.
“I know there’s a big push for hockey and some other sports,” Wildenhaus said. “But right now is not a very good time.”
Currently, the Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team participates in the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League against other midget club teams but is not formally affiliated with MCHS.
The process for starting or incorporating a new team is not difficult, Wildenhaus said, but cost prohibitive.
Any new sport would have to be registered with the Colorado High School Activities Assoc-
iation and the Western Slope League.
“Then we hire coaches and get the team scheduled,” Wildenhaus said. “That’s when the ball starts rolling.”
Wildenhaus said he has heard from several people asking about the possibility of an MCHS softball team, but the budget issues have shelved that talk.
“I know that there are some girls at the middle school who would be interested,” Wildenhaus said. “But there hasn’t been a big push.”
The biggest drawback to starting a new program is cost, Wildenhaus said.
“Cost has historically been the biggest factor against (starting a team),” he said. “Equipment and uniforms need to be purchased and maintained.
“Kids can buy equipment to a certain extent, but we would still need to pay for coaches, travel and officials.”
To save costs for current teams, Wildenhaus said budget cuts would come from across the board.
“We’re trying not to cut any coaching positions because that means less students will be able to participate,” he said. “We’re looking at cutting back on equipment and uniform allowances.”
Wildenhaus said other areas where savings could be met is by increasing fundraising for teams, increasing activity fees, and cutting back on transportation costs.
Having coaches drive two smaller, more fuel efficient buses instead of one large bus could save MCHS money, Wildenhaus said.
“That way, we can minimize fuel and maintenance costs,” he said. “With the smaller buses, we don’t need to hire a driver.”
Scheduling changes could include fewer games for junior varsity and freshman teams.
“It will be a lot of little things that hopefully the kids won’t notice,” he said. “We’re trying to minimize the impact.”