After sailing through a storm of bad press from the now-infamous "rifle raffle" saga, Gresham's Centennial Little League hopes it has found something a little less controversial to auction off this year: a boat.
The McKenzie River drift boat — built by hand by a Lake Oswego man — comes with its own Clackacraft trailer, with an estimated value of $5,000.
The league plans to sell 500 tickets for $20 apiece, with a goal of raising at least $10,000 for the co-ed ballplayers who attend the Centennial School District.
"I think it's important for kids to have after-school activities, and Little League does that for the community," explained league President Jennifer Clark. "(We're) going to put all the money back into the league."
In an interview at the baseball diamond last Saturday, May 6, Clark said the group has a critical to-do list stretching from first base around to home plate.
A top priority is the league's black-box style crow's nests, which are used to oversee play and keep score. Some of the jury-rigged wooden structures need to be completely rebuilt, while others require serious repairs to ensure safety and stability. Many of the sideline bleachers also are being targeted for retrofits.
And while the league already has access to a third field, the area needs more dirt, a mound and bases to make it suitable for play.
"The renovations need to be done because of year after year of use," Clark said. "Every year we're just scraping by."
Luckily, the boat the league is offering truly is something to behold.
Lawyer Packard "Pack" Phillips said he used Roger Fletcher plans and high-quality Okoume marine plywood from France to craft the 16-footer. Its ribs and interior are made of Alaskan yellow cedar, plus rails of Oregon quarter-sawn ash, custom vinyl cushions, a traditional rope oarsman's seat and multiple oar locks.
All parts have been epoxied and varnished, and a spare trailer tire, anchor and electric trolling motor are also included.
"A $5,000 boat is a $5,000 boat," Phillips said. "It's been a fun indulgence for me but it's also fun to think of it becoming some(thing) pretty wonderful."
Last summer, a team associated with Centennial gained national attention after announcing it was raffling off an AR-15 rifle to pay travel expenses for a championship tournament in California.
The Lake Oswego-based Rev. Jeremy Lucas won the rifle after spending nearly $3,000 from a church discretionary fund.
Lucas ended up in the hot seat himself — with arms activists clamoring he'd unwittingly admitted to violating an Oregon gun transfer law in an interview with the Washington Post — but the Christ Church Episcopal Parish clergyman never faced charges.
As for the gun, it was smelted into several gardening tools last July. But the story had a less pleasant conclusion in Gresham.
The District 2 Big League Softball Team, which raffled the rifle, casts a wide net across East Multnomah County to find a full roster of older girls who are still too young for high school ball. Though they raised enough to travel, the 15-member team was knocked out of last year's tourney after losing five straight games.
Centennial wasn't directly involved, but Ron Brown, the Big League coach and then-president of Centennial's League, resigned because of the controversy. He reportedly still volunteers in a less formal manner.
"It was polarizing," Clark noted. "The takeaway is that it's all about the kids. That's the most important thing."
Update: Tickets can also be purchased at this link: squareup.com/store/CentennialLittleLeague
— Pamplin Media Group reporter Barb Randall contributed to this news article.