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Salt Lake City seeking fee increases for its recreation fields

Published March 18, 2013 9:52 am

Sports • Goal is to maximize usage to meet growing demand.
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Demand for athletic fields — baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse — is up in Salt Lake City. And fees may not be far behind.

"Everything seems to be growing," said Rick Graham, director of Public Services. "But our field space is not."

The solution: a hike that could double fees in some cases and, in others, may be equivalent to a quadruple increase.

The proposal, Graham said, seeks to raise revenue, but more importantly aims to keep leagues from reserving field times they don't use.

Since 2003, athletic organizations have been able to reserve fields for $15 a week. That has resulted in leagues reserving large blocks of field time and, in some instances, fields went unused, Graham said. That also kept others from getting time on fields because the reservation list was booked up.

"We need to be more defined in how we reserve and use those fields," he said.

According to Graham's proposal to the Salt Lake City Council, the fee structure would be changed from weekly to hourly: Nonprofit youth organizations would pay $2 an hour; for-profit youth organizations would pay $4 an hour; and adult leagues would pay $5 an hour.

Concession stand fees would jump from $100 per season to $100 per month. A four-month season would then cost an organization $400, according to the proposal.

And not least, long-standing leagues that have "grandfathered" field reservations — a guarantee of the same fields and times every year — would lose that privilege when Salt Lake City completes construction of its northwest soccer complex in 2015.

For leagues like Rose Park Cal Ripken Baseball, the proposal is bad news, said organizer Jenifer Briseno.

The relatively small Little League has been playing on the west and east fields at Riverside Park since 1953. Briseno fears the elimination of "grandfathered" field times could leave the community league without a place to play.

This year, the league will field 15 teams in two age groups: 5 to 8 years old; and 9 to 12.

"What's sad is that the larger leagues will push out the littler leagues," she said. "These community kids need someplace to play. This keeps them off the streets."

The Rose Park league could, with some difficulty, absorb the increase to hourly fees. But the proposed concession fee increase would be burdensome, Briseno said.

"We are a low-income area with a lot of families that have a hard time with our $65 registration fee," she said.

The fee proposal is aimed at "a better use of a limited resource," said Council Chairman Kyle LaMalfa. "But it comes down to fees. And nobody likes to pay increased fees."

Nonetheless, it makes sense, he said, to find a solution that maximizes field use to accommodate more leagues and teams.

"My sense is there is support [among council members] in switching fees to an hourly basis," LaMalfa said.

But the council chairman also said he sensed that long-standing leagues would object to eliminating "grandfathered" reservations.

"That could be the sleeping giant" in the debate, he said.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the fee proposal at 7 p.m. March 26 at 451 S. State St., Room 315.

csmart@sltrib.com —

What's next

Public hearing 7 p.m. March 26, 451 S. State, room 315 Proposed athletic field fees

Nonprofit youth organizations • $2/hour

For-profit youth organizations • $4/hour

Adult organizations • $5/hour




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