Staff Report

When rising water rates threatened the future of two youth sports leagues that share costs at a local field, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and key county businesses pitched in to turn an ambitious solution into a reality.

Faced with water bills that rose from $14,000 to $37,000 per year, Santa Ynez Valley PONY Baseball (SYVPB) and the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) chapter in Santa Ynez reached out to community partners to help drill a well at the fields they maintain at Santa Ynez Elementary School.

Thanks to equal amounts of generosity and ingenuity, Santa Ynez’s PONY baseball teams are completing their first season under the new well-pumped irrigation system. They will play their championship games this Saturday on their own Field of Dreams –  one that won’t drain league coffers.

“All of our yearly fundraising was going toward paying our water bill,” said Phil Martin, the SYVPB Board president. “People would ask where the money went, and I’d point to the grass.

“Splitting $37,000 each year with AYSO was an untenable situation. I thought the only real solution would be to drill a well. We needed to find a way to get it done.”

After renegotiating a 30-year lease with the Santa Ynez Elementary School District, the leagues set out to find crucial contributions – in funds and expertise – to produce a well estimated at more than $100,000.

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians committed $30,000 to the project, AYSO received approval its national charter to contribute funds, and local business people — such as Richard Alexander of A&A Pump & Well Service, Santa Ynez Valley Youth Rec Board Member Mark Moniot of Moniot Electric and Mike McClellan of McClellan’s Equipment & Sanitation — provided the equipment, materials, expertise and time to complete the project.

“We’re proud to be part of a community effort that benefits our local youth,” said Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “Our tribe is a longtime supporter of youth sports.

“When we learned how valuable a water well could be on this field and how it could help our local youth baseball and soccer leagues, we wanted to help make it happen.”

“[The Santa Ynez Chumash] were the first donors to get onboard,” said Martin. “We would have never gotten this off the ground without that pledge and subsequent donation.”

Martin estimates that Alexander of A&A Pump & Well donated $70,000 in equipment and labor to drill the well.

“The amount of donations and support we got from the community with no one asking to be recognized or for anything in return was absolutely staggering,” Martin said.

The leagues hope to focus future fundraising efforts on capital improvements to the facility.

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has donated more than $25 million to hundreds of groups, organizations and schools in the community and across the nation as part of the tribe’s long-standing tradition of giving.