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Athletic Leaders Form Fund-Raising Team : Recreation: Conejo Sports Federation involves more than 30 representatives. The group will tackle the daunting task of finding money for expanded programs and better facilities.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

John Carpenter always knew that he would have a tough time persuading the masses to support his obscure passions: fencing and pentathlons, a jumble of five sports from equestrian jumping to pistol shooting.

Recognizing his isolation, the 29-year-old writer never bothered lobbying Thousand Oaks officials for places to train. He made do with what he had, or traveled to Los Angeles in search of better facilities.

But now, Carpenter sees a chance to gain recognition for his favorite sports--and, perhaps, gain some new training gyms in Thousand Oaks.

With considerable optimism, Carpenter has joined the Conejo Sports Federation, a team of more than 30 athletic leaders dedicated to improving recreational opportunities for children and grown-ups.

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As he explained: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

From basketball to swimming, adult softball to youth soccer, the new federation boasts members representing every sport played between Camarillo and Calabasas. Together, they will tackle the daunting task of raising money for expanded athletic programs and better facilities.

“They will absolutely have clout,” Thousand Oaks Councilman Frank Schillo predicted.

First on the federation’s game plan: identifying each sport’s priorities and raising funds to meet those needs.

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Moving well beyond the bake sales and carwashes that support most club sports, the athletic leaders plan to tap corporate donors, national foundations and even local voters for money.

Thousand Oaks officials have talked vaguely of issuing bonds to help finance an Olympic-sized pool, a new multipurpose gym or spiffy playing fields.

And federation leaders intend to fight hard for such aid.

“To build facilities, you need money, and to get money, you need as many votes as you can. If everybody bands together and agrees on a wish list, we have more of a chance to get widespread support,” said Dennis McGurk, a federation member and vice president of the Newbury Park Pony Baseball League.

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Calls for more recreational opportunities have echoed in the Conejo Valley for years. Better sports facilities routinely crop up as a priority for residents on the city-sponsored attitude surveys. But as Thousand Oaks approaches build-out, the issue has gained new urgency.

“If we don’t do it now, in the next 10 years, all of Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park will be developed and we’ll have lost our window of opportunity,” McGurk said.

While the federation still has not fully organized, some members have already identified possible funding sources. In particular, they are eyeing the Los Angeles Olympic Committee, which they said offers substantial grants to regional sports groups.

“I’m excited about this because I’ve seen the need for a long time,” said Councilwoman Judy Lazar, who sits on the federation steering committee with Schillo. “There’s always strength in numbers.”

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