Las Vegas sports enthusiasts upset over field fee increases


The term “pay to play” carries nefarious overtones when it comes to politics.

Some sports enthusiasts might say the same when it comes to baseball and soccer field fee increases in Las Vegas.

Only it’s “pay more to play.”

City officials say they are simply not going to keep absorbing a $9.6 million annual loss to operate and maintain the city’s 35 sports complexes and 155 sports fields. The costs of the fields and complexes total $10.9 million a year while the revenue is $1.3 million.

That is a $9.6 million funding gap. Meanwhile, the city’s budget deficit is $9 million.

The city of Las Vegas is insisting that it’s time the leagues, whether soccer, softball, baseball, football or Lacrosse, pay to play.

The city of Las Vegas is recovering 12 cents in revenue for every $1 it spends on municipal sports fields, according to an Applied Analysis report.

“We don’t break even,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said. “We want to do that over a period of time.”

The city doesn’t want to make a profit, but officials estimate that 6 percent of its 600,000 residents use the fields, and 88 percent of nonusers pay for the operations and maintenance of sports fields.

The goal is to bring the parks and recreation revenue up to 50 percent of the costs.

The pushback is coming more from children’s sports than adult teams, city officials say.

The increases for league play will be phased in. The current fee is $3 per hour per field and no lighting charges.

Starting Aug. 1, the fee for a field will be $3 an hour and a $10-an-hour lighting fee. That will bump the cost recovering from today’s 12 percent to 17 percent.

Next spring, the increase will slide up to $10 a hour for the field and $10 an hour for lighting, or a 26 percent cost recovery.

For tournament play, the city is abandoning its existing system using percentages and going with a flat fee of $50 plus lighting for diamond fields and $70 plus the lighting fee for rectangular fields.

Sally Commerford, the Junior Olympic director for the Amateur Softball Association, said annual costs for a child will increase from $150 to $405. Those costs cover uniforms, umpires, trophies and costs beyond the fields.

“That’s monstrous,” she declared. “I have parents who say if it happens, they can’t pay for their children to play.”

Commerford and city officials are concerned the increases will hurt the so-called “scholarship players,” disadvantaged children who are underwritten by leagues so they have an opportunity to play.

CITY MEETING TO PERSUADE

At a June 26 meeting to explain to users the necessity to increase fees, there was a fair amount of grumbling within the crowd. The charts showed that with the current fees of $3 an hour and no fee for lighting, the costs are now less than 25 cents per player per hour or less than $20 per player every year.

The phased-in final fee means leagues will pay $10 per hour for the field and $10 per hour for field lighting if they need it.

Applied Analysis made calculations based on the use of fields by samples from five different league sports. When the next cost increases are phased in next year, and leagues will pay $10 a hour for the field and $10 an hour for lighting:

■ Mountain Ridge Little League’s annual cost per player jumps from nearly $20 to $92.

■ Amateur Softball Associates of Nevada’s annual cost per player jumps from nearly $19 to $88.

■ National Youth Sports football players now pay nearly $5 each. Their increase will be to $22 annually.

■ Southern Nevada Lacrosse Association goes from nearly $5 each to $20 each.

■ Nevada Youth Soccer Association goes from $14 per player to nearly $57.

Angie Eliason, executive director of the Nevada Youth Soccer Association, is OK with the increases for the more than 8,000 players in that league.

“We want the fields to stay at the quality they are,” she said.

The passion for soccer in Las Vegas is so strong, she doubts that any children will drop off of soccer teams because of the additional cost.

Chuck Stanley from Amateur Softball Associates of Nevada is one of the unhappy ones.

“This increase will deprive athletics for both youth and adults,” he predicted.

He is one of a number of league leaders who will be meeting with city officials to discuss the graduated increases in more depth.

GOAL: TO BREAK EVEN

“This is the first phase of fee increases for the entire Parks and Recreation Department,” warned Deputy City Manager Scott Adams during a lengthy interview with the Review Journal, referring to the addition of a lighting fee when none existed before. “The council was appalled at how little we were recovering.”

The council said to bring up the revenue to 50 percent of the costs, pool fees will be increased this September. Fees for Kids Kamp and Safe Key have already increased.

The fee increases will be fully implemented by mid-2015, including community center rental increases. By that point, the city should be pulling in an additional $4.5 million a year, or half of the general fund deficit, according to Adams.

But right now, it’s about sports fields.

Tim Hacker is the new interim director of the Las Vegas Department of Parks and Recreation and was the North Las Vegas city manager for two years before John Lee was elected mayor. While the cost recovery is now only 12 percent, he said the cost recovery on the fields should be 26 percent a year from now.

Adams hopes some leagues change to daylight hours or start playing on Sundays to avoid lighting fees.

“Sunday is a low-use day, a dead day,” Adams said.

If leagues decide to shop around for cheaper rates in North Las Vegas, Henderson or Clark County, he said that’s OK because the city has a waiting list of teams hoping to use the city’s high-quality sports fields.

“We have a whole line waiting to get on a field. We have greater demand than supply,” Adams said.

The fee increases might reduce the number of hours teams sign up for, he said. “Some leagues get more hours than needed while others cannot get on the field because other teams may be hoarding the fields,” Adams said.

While it seems the city is locked into these sports fields fee increases, Mayor Goodman said other fee increases for other parks and recreation services will come before the council. Some of those fee hikes remain a moving target.

Contact Jane Ann Morrison at jmorrison@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0275.

 

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