Salt Lake City increases fees for baseball fields
Teams will have to start paying more, but the hit isn't as bad as they feared.
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It's a good day in Mudville, at least for Little League and Babe Ruth baseball, as the Salt Lake City Council dialed back a proposed fee and scheduling system for athletic fields that could have left the boys — and girls — of summer a little short.

Fees for athletic fields in Salt Lake City will now cost $2 an hour for nonprofit youth leagues; $4 an hour for profit-making leagues; and $5 an hour for adult leagues. Each group had been paying $15 a week. The new rates represent an increase and apply to the present spring and summer season.

But a proposal to eliminate guaranteed scheduling, or "grandfathering," for long-standing city leagues was put on hold by the council. The administration will meet with stakeholder groups to formulate a new scheduling system by the spring of 2015.

In an interview, Councilman Charlie Luke said it's important to recognize the long-standing community commitment of the baseball leagues that have over decades played on Salt Lake City's fields and have made significant investments in them.

The council also retained a "sweat equity" provision that allows leagues to pay up to 50 percent of seasonal field fees by making facility improvements and field preparation.

Leagues also rent concession stands from the city. The proposal to increase fees also would have raised concession stand rates to $100 per month from $100 per season. But the council trimmed that, too. Concession stands with electricity will be $50 per month. Those without power will be $25.

Tom Green of the Greater Salt Lake City Babe Ruth League said concessions pay for the league's umpires. A $100 per month concession fee wouldn't work. "We just can't afford it," he said in an interview.

And without the "sweat equity" provision, the league would have difficulty making the fee payment, Green added. His teams play at Herman Franks Field at 700 East and 1300 South.

"We have been working on that field for generations," he said. "It's totally a neighborhood kind of thing."

Baseball coaches and advocates from Rose Park and Foothill area little leagues made similar comments last week at a City Council public hearing.

They did not favor field fee increases either, but said they could accept them. However, eliminating grandfathered field schedules could bring an end to traditions dating back to the 1950s.

According to Jenifer Briseno of the Rose Park Cal Ripken Baseball league, bigger, wealthier leagues could push them off what they call "their community field."

The proposal for new fee and scheduling structures was forwarded to the council by the Becker administration, said Rick Graham, director of Public Services, because some groups were scheduling more time than they were using. That, in turn, was keeping others from being able to schedule fields.

But Green said that the Babe Ruth League doesn't play by a clock and games can last up to five hours. "If you schedule another group while we're in the middle of a game, there could be a fistfight."

csmart@sltrib.com