COLORADO SPRINGS — Thousands of Colorado Springs kids will get to play youth sports free of charge through at least 2026, thanks to a program created by Olympic City USA.

The biggest boost to the effort is a $225,000 grant over three years from the Daniels Fund and $50,000 from the Dakota Foundation, according to a press release from the city. Additional funding for the initiative includes donations from Boeing, the Chapman Foundations, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Comcast, Gazette Charities Foundation and the Schuck Foundation.

To date, the city stated that $339,500 has been raised for the initiative. The funds will be used to waive registration fees for select age divisions of soccer, t-ball, baseball and softball on a first come, first served basis. The program is open to everyone and has no eligibility requirements for players in the selected age groups to receive a free spot.

“We recognize the positive impact that youth sports can have on kids, which will last through their lifetime,” said Janet Suthers, Olympic City USA Task Force co-chair. “The opportunity to play should not be limited by the ability to pay a fee, and this initiative aims to remove that barrier especially for families that need a boost.”

This year, 440 kids have benefited from the program, 300 in spring soccer and 140 in the upcoming summer t-ball, baseball and softball season. Soccer is offered in the spring and fall, and t-ball, baseball and softball are offered in the summer.

Hanna Skandera, president & CEO of the Daniels Fund, believes in “the power of sports to build important values that help our young people throughout their lives, such as character, teamwork, and discipline.” She continued, “the enriching benefits of sports should be available to youth of all backgrounds and we’re thrilled to provide that opportunity.”

In fall 2022, the $78 fee to play soccer will be waived for the first 460 kids to register at parks citywide from pre-k to fourth grade. The most spots will be available in the youngest age divisions, pre-k to second grade, and at practice locations in the southeast and central regions. Registration for fall soccer opens May 9.

The City expects to make available an increasing number of free spots as funding and availability of volunteer coaches grow.

“Our ultimate goal is to make sports available…to all elementary school children by removing the financial barriers to participation,” said Suthers. “We are… working to ensure we have enough funding and enough coaches to support all these kids. We are extremely proud of the impact this initiative is having in our community, and we are excited to see it grow.”

The free sports initiative was piloted in the spring of 2021 as the “Gamechanger” program. Funded by Comcast and Children’s Hospital Colorado, registration fees were waived for PreK- second grade soccer. The first season of the pilot program quadrupled registration and significantly helped grow programming at Deerfield Hills and Meadows parks. 

Information about the city’s youth sports offerings and volunteer coaching is available at ColoradoSprings.gov/YouthSports.