Thursday, April 22, 2010

BigBalls Finds New Home; Rival Kickball League Takes Its Spot at Tower Grove

Posted By on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 9:33 AM

click to enlarge St. Louis kickball: It's a vicious business. P.S. Watch your back!
  • St. Louis kickball: It's a vicious business. P.S. Watch your back!
I learned something yesterday. And, no, it wasn't that I "eat poo", or that I'm a "huge fag" as some Daily RFT readers suggested in responding to my posts yesterday making fun of a kickball league banned from Tower Grove Park for boorish behavior.

No, what I learned was that kickball (yes, that "sport" you played in grade-school gym class) is a cutthroat business. Within hours of the BigBalls league getting kicked out of Tower Grove Park, I received a press release from another league -- Sports Monster -- informing me that it has swooped in to pick up the park fields freed up following BigBalls banishment.

Then, in the comment section of my post yesterday, the founder of yet another kickball league -- St. Louis Kickball Association (SKA) -- jumped in to accuse Ted McCluskey, founder of the ousted BigBalls league, of abusing Tower Grove Park policies and raking in cash in the process. Among the allegations is that McClusky runs BigBalls as a for-profit-agency that generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue each year.

Curious, I called up McClusky to discuss with him the business of kickball and the future plans for his league.

Me: So have you heard that Sports Monster has already picked up your fields at Tower Grove?

McCluskey: Well, good luck to them. They've only got like four teams, so they shouldn't have a problem. That said, I see Tower Grove Park as pretty toxic right now. They are going to have a lot of restriction placed on them to play there.

Where are you taking your league now that you can't play at Tower Grove Park?

We've already secured fields at Buder Park and Jefferson Barracks in the county. We've run leagues with St. Louis County Parks before. We have a good reputation with them.

bigballs3.jpg
Do you think part of the problem Tower Grove had with your league is the names of the teams, such as Gang Bang All-Stars, South City Nipple Flickers and Prom Night Dumpster Babies?

Well, Prom Night Dumpster Babies is a joke from Family Guy. If Fox can run that at 8 p.m. at night, I think we can use it. But really the names of our teams are no different than other leagues. Go to kickball.com and look at some of them around the country. I don't make suggestions on what people should call their teams. They're adults. Who am I to tell them what to do? Also, the park has always had the teams and the rosters. If they had a problem with it, I never heard about it.

What about the logos for the teams? Who designs those? They can be rather graphic.

We design them based on suggestion from the team. It's all part of the league fee. We put them on t-shirts. But really, the logos aren't nearly as bad as the names some people put on the back of their shirts. But, hey, if someone is all right walking into Schnucks wearing one of these, well that's their choice. Again, this is an adult league.

So, you have 2,500 or so players who pay $40 to $50 per season to play. There are three seasons a year. That adds up to to $300,000 or so in gross revenue.

If you look at how much we take in, yes that looks like a lot. But we're also paying park fees, hiring umpires, providing equipment (balls, plates, line paint), t-shirts, a website with standings, and social functions. Are we more expensive than some other leagues? Yes. But we also provide a lot more.

How much do you personally make on the league, $100K?

I suppose I could, but I don't. I started doing this league a few years ago on a part-time basis. As it grew in popularity, I couldn't keep up doing it part-time. I had to make a choice to either hand it off, or quit my job (working in finance for a health care company) to take this on full-time. In doing that, I also had to determine whether I could make as much doing this as I did in my old job.

As you understand it, why did you get kicked out of the Tower Grove Park?

They moved us from the Arsenal side of the park to the Magnolia side. I knew that was going to be a problem. The Arsenal side is accustomed to more traffic. Now suddenly the people living on the Magnolia are getting hundreds of cars parking the street, and they see people carrying twelve-packs across the street to the park and don't like it. They complain to the park, and we're out. But you know, maybe its a good thing. We had sort of outgrown the park.
  

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