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IKEA is refusing to play ball.
And that makes the Swedish home furnishings giant a bad sport, according to a Red Hook little league baseball team in need of a couple of kronas to continue its popular summer program.
“When they were trying to come into Red Hook, they said, ‘We’re going to do everything for you guys,’” said Wally Bazemore, a longtime neighborhood activist and co−commissioner of the Red Hook Youth Baseball League, which serves 200 kids, ages seven to 15.
“We all lobbied for them, and they never funded the program,” Bazemore said.
The league — free to all participants — began in 1998 as an outgrowth of the Red Hook Justice Center’s AmeriCorps program.
The 346,000−square−foot megastore on 22.5 acres on Beard Street opened last summer. Its arrival was not without rancor, with some arguing for economic development, while others in the neighborhood fearing an infusion of traffic on narrow local streets.
The league already enjoys sponsorship from Fairway, Long Island College Hospital, City Councilmember Sara GonzÁlez, Rep. Nydia GonzÁlez, and Red Hook developer Greg O’Connell, Bazemore noted. Regarding IKEA, he added, “Too many times these companies want to come in to the neighborhood, they sell you a bill of goods — and then they give us nothing.”
Bazemore said a store official told the league that the company has a preference for ‘green’ programs, meaning those that are environmentally friendly or beneficial. “Our kids need green to get on the field,” he noted.
The league typically raises $15,000−$20,000 a year, money that goes toward uniforms, trophies and equipment. It was hoping to secure $5,000−10,000 from IKEA. “We are even ready to name it the IKEA−sponsored Red Hook Little League,” Bazemore said.
IKEA spokesperson Joseph Roth said the company has no interest in having its name on a baseball uniform.
He said IKEA is already very active in Red Hook, providing home furnishings to people in need. The company will help fund certain groups “that have an environmental commitment, rather than sponsoring activities,” Roth said.
Funding a little league, Roth continued, “is not consistent with our mission.” He said during IKEA’s public approval phase, the company never committed to a little league sponsorship. “That might be great for the community, but it’s not necessarily consistent with a home furnishings company,” he said.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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