The 1984 Summer Olympics left a rich legacy: $90 million in profit to be used for amateur youth sports in Southern California.
But of the $30 million distributed so far, Orange County-based programs have received about 1%--and nearly half of that went to buy a diving platform for a Laguna Niguel swimming pool and boats for a private Newport Beach rowing program.
The guidelines of the nonprofit, tax-exempt Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, which distributes the Olympic largess, stress that “special emphasis” be given to “groups or communities that are most in need. These will often be communities of lower income.”
Nevertheless, the programs in Newport Beach and Laguna Niguel, two of Southern California’s most well-to-do communities, received $165,000 of the $336,000 given to Orange County organizations since the grant program began five years ago.
Meanwhile, needy amateur sports groups in Orange County, which hosted four 1984 Olympic events, suffer from shortages of equipment, inadequate facilities and bank accounts in the red. Many of these groups apparently have been unaware that there is money available for the asking. Ironically, some may not qualify under AAF guidelines simply because they are too needy.
Moreover, successful foundation grantsmanship may not hinge entirely on need. Connections seem to help.
The private Newport Aquatic Center, where lessons cost $50 and it costs $250 a year to join, received a $115,000 grant in December, 1986, to buy 15 racing shells. Among the center’s board of directors when it applied for the money were two former U.S. Olympic rowers--Bruce Ibbetson and Curt Fleming--and an ex-Olympic rowing coach--David Grant. Ibbetson wrote the application for the grant.
“The fact we were all on the Olympic team didn’t hurt,” conceded Grant, longtime Orange Coast College crew coach who last month was named the community college’s president.
The Crown Valley Recreation Center in Laguna Niguel was awarded $50,000 in October, 1989, to buy a diving platform and a water bubbler that will benefit a competitive diving team that practices at the public pool. The grant application was written by Dick Wilson, who was competition director for diving at the 1984 Summer Olympics and also the official announcer at those Olympic events. Wilson said his Olympics involvement made him aware of the grant program.
“The fact that I’m aware of what the grant will do, that gave me an edge,” Wilson said. “I did the (application) up right . . . to show how there was such a need.”
For example, without the expensive new diving platform, Wilson pointed out, the Crown Valley Divers would have to travel to Mission Viejo or Irvine to practice on a diving platform.
“It’s quite a long drive,” said Wilson, whose wife, Ida, is the Crown Valley Divers’ coach.
The AAF says it considers grants for “any bona fide organization devoted to amateur sport,” adding that its money is “aimed primarily to youth who are not at elite levels of sport accomplishment.”
Nevertheless, foundation officials concede that there is some advantage for applicants who have been affiliated with the Olympics.
“I would assume people affiliated with the Olympics would get first choice,” foundation chairman David Wolper said. “If somebody was an Olympic coach, he would be very high on our listing and should be.”
At stake is a seemingly endless supply of Olympic profits. By investing its money, the AAF has been able to give away and spend about $30 million just by drawing on interest and without touching the original $90 million allotted for Southern California.
Curiously, demand for the money has been less than expected.
“We haven’t been overwhelmed with requests for money,” said Los Angeles attorney John C. Argue, a member of the AAF board of directors who sits on the foundation’s Grants Committee. One estimate has the AAF approving perhaps as many as 80% of the applications it receives.
“We like to put it into areas that need it the most. It’s one of our primary goals,” Argue said. “What we’re trying to do is put balls and bats in the hands of kids.”
June Canham would like that.
“We certainly could use it,” said Canham, volunteer treasurer of the Southeast Santa Ana Little League, which serves children in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Orange County’s most impoverished city.
Two years ago, the Southeast Santa Ana Little League ran into financial difficulties. Children did not get their trophies because there was no money. There was a shortage of uniforms, so neighboring Little Leagues donated some.
Last year, the league had to raise sign-up fees from $30 to $35 per child. The league remains about $17,000 in debt.
Canham estimates that there would be at least twice the 200 youngsters ages 5 to 14 who participate in the program if they could afford to join.
“We’re doing our utmost to keep the children off the streets,” Canham said. There are no other organized sports programs serving the youth of the high-crime, low-income neighborhood around Standard Street and Edinger Avenue, she said.
However, Southeast Santa Ana Little League may be too impoverished to qualify for an AAF grant. The foundation’s criteria discourage grants to pay off debts.
“Some people say (that they are) $20,000 in debt and would like a grant to get . . . solvent--we do not do that,” said Judith Pinero, AAF’s vice president in charge of grants. “We want to fund programs that . . . have had some degree of self-sufficiency. . . .
“We’re here to provide funding without interest or repayment to organizations that run quality sports programs and we’re here to help them enhance what they are already doing well.”
The Southeast Santa Ana Little League’s current board of directors inherited the budget deficit, according to Robert Jackson, Little League District 30 administrator.
Jackson was ready to shut down the league until Canham and other volunteers came forward last year.
Canham, who took over management of the finances, only recently learned of the Olympic grant program when advised by a reporter.
“A lot of leagues probably don’t know anything about it,” she said.
Indeed, the AAF’s Pinero conceded that despite widespread publicity and promotion of the grants, “there are a lot of people who don’t know about us. . . . We are constantly trying to get the word out.”
“When we have money,” Argue said, “you’d assume that a lot of people would like to have some of it.
"(But) people need to apply to get it.”
Argue maintains that a “lack of infrastructure” to encourage communication between leaders of many youth sports is what makes it difficult for local groups to obtain grants. As a result, the AAF has resorted to “creating our own programs,” he said.
“We have formed sports clubs in public housing areas and get the people involved” in East Los Angeles and South Central Los Angeles, he said.
In Orange County since the 1984 Olympics, the AAF has awarded direct grants to 17 locally based groups, such as $3,500 to Tustin Pony Baseball and $67,400 to the Huntington Valley Boys and Girls Clubs.
“I think quite a substantial amount of money has gone out there,” Argue said.
But a much greater percentage of the grants has gone to Los Angeles County.
“We have a tendency to give more money where more events were held,” Argue said.
(During the ’84 Games, Orange County hosted Olympic team handball at Cal State Fullerton, wrestling at the Anaheim Convention Center, cycling on the streets of Mission Viejo, and the pentathlon at Coto de Caza and Irvine.)
The foundation’s announced intention is to serve the “same broad cross-section that contributed so much to the success of the 1984 Olympics.”
“Take a baseball team in East L.A.,” Argue said. “If we buy bats and balls and uniforms, then it means that the neighborhood doesn’t have to, so they don’t have to charge anybody anything to play.”
That scenario sounds wonderful to Tim Bradley, a father of seven who volunteers to help run the Tri-Cities football program in Buena Park, La Palma and Cypress. Bradley also was unaware of the AAF grants.
“The kids we seem to attract are from the lower-income areas--mostly Buena Park,” Bradley said. “Their parents really can’t afford our fees.”
Although registration is $75, it totals about $240 per child for equipment, insurance and other costs, Bradley said. The balance must be obtained through fund-raising events.
“We used to run about 20%, but now we’re up to about 40%" of parents unable to pay registration, he said. “It just seems like every year it gets to be a higher and higher” percentage.
“Our home field is around an area that is not very good, and it seems like we get a lot of those kids. We try to take them off the street.”
What are the options for youngsters who can’t afford to sign up?
“Stand around and get shot,” Bradley said. “Right next to our field, we had two people get shot by drive-by shootings.”
Some Orange County organizations have been aware of the AAF grants, but the grant applications were turned down, Pinero said.
In 1986, there was a request from the Anaheim Parks and Recreation Community Services Department to fund “a recreation and socialization program for the physically disabled and head-injured adult population.”
Pinero said the application was rejected because the AAF does not give money to governmental agencies or fund programs for adults.
Were the AAF to fund public agencies, Pinero said, “city councils and the powers that be would just say: ‘Hey, the foundation will do it, why should we do it?’ ”
The AAF may frown on giving money directly to public entities, but the foundation has given sizable grants to a private foundation that uses the money to provide a service to Los Angeles public schools.
The Constitutional Rights Foundation has used its AAF money to conduct a Sports and the Law Workshop for Los Angeles Unified School District teachers who integrate it into their eighth-to-11th grade curriculum, Pinero said.
The foundation provides the workshops and curriculum because the school district won’t pay for it, Pinero said.
AAF officials say that Orange County also benefits from grants to agencies that transcend geographic boundaries, such as about $230,000 contributed to the National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis and $61,000 to the California Amateur Hockey Assn.
Still, the largest grant to an individual program based in Orange County has been the $115,000 to the Newport Aquatic Center.
Every three months, new grants are announced. About $300,000 will be awarded Friday, but there are no Orange County groups being considered, Pinero said.
Sooner or later, however, Orange County might be in line for some more Olympic money.
Both Grant from the Newport Aquatic Center and Wilson from Crown Valley Divers say they probably will ask for more money.
“We intend to go back to the Amateur Athletic Foundation for more equipment and more support,” Grant said. “It seems like you can’t do anything for less than $100,000.”
“Why shouldn’t rowing be as exciting as football in high school?” Grant asked. “Why should rowing have to have the bake sales? Why should these sports struggle like this? We clearly need some help.”
GRANTS TO ORANGE COUNTY YOUTH FACILITIES The Amateur Athletic Foundation has handed out $30 million since 1984--about $1.9 million to groups in Orange County or to regional groups servicing the county. The rest went to groups outside the county.
Regional Groups in thousands of dollars Southern California Tennis Assn.: 465 Ladies Professional Golf Assn.: 320 National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis: 234 Boys Club, Pacific Region: 200 Southern California Badminton Assn.: 147 Girl Club of America: 103 Phoenix House (Santa Ana): 80.1 California Amateur Hockey Assn.: 61 Southern California Women’s Basketball: 49.9 Orange County Groups
Date Amount Recipient Dec. 1986 115,000 Newport Aquatic Center March 1989 67,400 Huntington Valley Boys and Girls Clubs Oct. 1989 50,000 Laguna Niguel Community Services June 1989 21,200 YMCA Weingart (Lakewood/Cypress) Dec. 1986 15,400 American Amateur Karate Federation June 1987 12,500 California Youth Tennis Foundation June 1987 10,000 San Clemente Gymnastics March 1987 9,040 Anaheim Athletic Club June 1986 $5,000 Irvine Baseball Assn. Sept. 1986 5,000 TAC National Cross-Country Championships March 1987 5,000 L.A. Blues (Yorba Linda women’s soccer) June 1987 5,000 Boy Scouts of America Sept. 1987 5,000 Byakko Judo (Santa Ana) Dec. 1987 5,000 Shosin-Ryu Jujitsu Club June 1986 3,500 Tustin Pony Baseball Dec. 1986 2,000 California Assn. for Blind Athletes Total 336,040
Source: Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles