Dozens of young men have spent most of their Sundays over the past year playing basketball at the Dula Gymnasium in downtown Las Vegas.
But because of tightening city revenues, they'll have to find another place to play starting next month.
The Dula Gym is one of 10 additional recreation facilities in the city of Las Vegas that will be closed on Sundays starting April 6 in order to save money because of what city officials are calling a strapped budget.
"We have to go somewhere else," said Pepsi Porciuncula, who organized the Sunday night basketball league with his friends. "I just told everybody we wouldn't be able to finish the season. Nothing I can do. They understand."
Although the city has been taking steps for months to hold costs down, mostly by not filling vacant positions, the closures represent an actual reduction in services in order to deal with what Mayor Oscar Goodman called a "scary" financial outlook.
"We're in a situation where we have to be very prudent," he said. "We're going through the budget line by line, basically, seeing where we can cut."
The new hours will mean that 35 of the 38 facilities operated by the city's Leisure Services department will be closed on Sundays.
The closings will save about $139,000 a year in costs for hourly employees, utilities and custodial services.
The closure decision was based on minimal activity at the 10 centers on Sundays, according to a city report. Deputy City Manager Orlando Sanchez said the option had been considered for some time.
"With such a low attendance rate on these days, keeping the centers and pools open on Sundays would not be an effective use of taxpayers' money," he said. "While this may seem like a small amount of money compared to the city's total budget, all departments have been asked to tighten their budgets and every dollar of taxpayer money that can be saved helps."
Two pools, the Freedom Park pool and the Municipal Pool on East Bonanza Road, will remain open on Sundays in the summer because of high demand. The Amanda and Stacy Darling Tennis Center also will continue to be open on Sundays.
The slumping economy has reduced anticipated tax revenues, particularly the consolidated sales tax, which provides a little more than half of the city's operating budget.
Although all taxing entities are affected, so far Clark County, Henderson and North Las Vegas aren't planning to pursue similar courses of action.
"All valley agencies are hit," said Cindy Herman, spokeswoman for the city of Henderson. "We were able to build strong reserves that, hopefully, will be the bridge that gets us through. Our commercial building is still relatively strong, and that's another bridge that's helping us."
North Las Vegas took early steps to deal with the economic downturn, freezing nonpublic safety hiring and trimming expenses to the tune of $6.9 million.
"We were able to at least get ahead of the curve," said Finance Director Phil Stoeckinger.
He also noted, though, that the city is staring at its second straight year of declining sales tax revenue: "That hasn't happened in the last 30 years in Southern Nevada."
In February, the Henderson library district started closing its four libraries on Sundays because of tight budgets.
Las Vegas recently announced plans to lay off 31 employees in the Building and Safety Department. Fees paid by developers cover that department's expenses, and construction activity has fallen off to the point that the department was going into the red.
In addition to the recreation center closures, Las Vegas plans to eliminate some hourly, part-time positions, cancel events requiring overtime and reduce travel, consultant and supply budgets. Those cuts are intended to stave off more layoffs in the short term.
The centers seeing reduced hours do a fraction of their business on Sunday.
One of the busiest, the Doolittle Community Center, posts an average daily attendance of 506 people, according to city figures, but average Sunday attendance was just 25.
The highest Sunday numbers were recorded by the Veterans Memorial Leisure Services Center, with an average attendance of 78. During the week, though, average daily attendance is 442.
"While we may be inconveniencing a small number of people, the savings of approximately $130,000 is the responsible thing to do, especially in these tight financial times," Sanchez said.
The Dula Gym showed an average Sunday usage of 19 people in the city report, which drew its numbers from a software program that tracks participation and fees paid. A city spokesperson noted, however, that the program doesn't count individual team members who play in a tournament; it just records that an entrance fee was paid.
Porciuncula said as many as 100 players would cycle through the gym on Sunday nights. He said the league might be able to start meeting at the Tarkanian Basketball Academy, but that it wouldn't be as convenient as Dula.
"It's close to everybody," he said. "Everyone knows the gym already."
Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate @ reviewjournal.com or (702) 229-6435.