City council wants city staff to take another look at proposed increases to field user fees after hearing that fees for recreational slo-pitch players will increase by 377 per cent.
Chad Braithwaite, president of the Campbell River Slo-Pitch League, told city council at its Jan. 23 meeting that a rate hike to $20 per hour for adults to rent city and school fields will cost the league $16,960, a 376.88 per cent increase over the $4,500 that the league paid last year.
Braithwaite said those figures are based on four fields booked for one hour games, four times a week for an eight week men’s and ladies’ season and six fields booked five nights a week for two hour games during a 12 week mixed league season.
“I think we can all agree that this is an astronomical increase,” Braithwaite said.
He added that last year, each player paid $22 towards field user fees but if the proposed fee hike goes through, that will increase to a whopping $82.72.
The new fee structure was drafted by city staff over the course of last year.
It was prompted by council’s direction to staff to undertake a comprehensive review of user fees charged at city facilities.
The current user fee system charges on a per player, per sport, per season basis.
For youth that fee was $10 per youth, per sport, per season and $22 for each adult, per sport, per season.
That is set to change this year to an hourly booking system.
For youth, the fee would be $5 per hour, per field for youth teams and $20 per hour for adult teams.
According to a city report, fees in municipalities of a similar size and with similar facilities on Vancouver Island charge on average between $7.02 and $17.62 for youth per hour and $16.33 and $33.17 for adults per hour.
Tournament fees would follow those same fees but be capped at eight hours, or $160 per field per day for adult tournaments and capped at $40 for youth tournament bookings.
The fees would also apply to School District 72 fields which are booked through the city.
Braithwaite said the new proposed tournament fee will hurt the league, noting that a two-day tournament would cost the league $1,600 in field user fees.
“Over the last three years we have seen an increase in participation in our tournaments from out of town teams (but) if the tournament fees need to be increased to cover the proposed field user fees, then out of town teams will not come to Campbell River. These out of town teams are a boost to the local economy as they stay at hotels, eat in restaurants, frequent our local pubs, grocery stores and support local charities by participating in our tournaments,” Braithwaite said. “Discussion about this tournament fee increase amongst our current Campbell River teams (ensued), and the general consensus is our own local teams will not play in them either as the cost to do so will be too high.”
Braithwaite noted that over the past three years the league has donated $7,600 to local charities through its tournaments and has even started its own charity to help underpriviledged kids participate in sports.
But, he said, there is concern that those charitable donations may not be financially feasible under the new rate system.
“We feel that if the new proposed fee is approved that this fund will not be able to be continued as the funds earmarked for our charity will now have to go to field user fees,” Braithwaite said.
While council last fall endorsed the new field user fees, which are intended to move the city to an hourly booking system in order to create an equitable fee structure for all users and better manage field availability and maintenance, the fees are part of a city bylaw and still need to pass three readings to go into effect.
At last week’s council meeting, Coun. Colleen Evans questioned whether that was the last opportunity for teams to have a say on the proposed rates.
Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said all of the affected organizations were contacted and thoroughly consulted by city staff and that they were notified that the Jan. 23 council meeting was the time to speak up.
“We sent a letter to all of the groups telling them that if they wanted to speak to council this would be the time to do so and we didn’t hear back from any of the groups beside slo-pitch,” Milnthorp said, adding that if any groups had any concerns they could contact him directly.
Coun. Charlie Cornfield, though, said he was concerned by the numbers Braithwaite presented.
“I did not anticipate what I see as such a substantial increase,” Cornfield said. “I’d like to see a report that looks back on what we were shown (previously by staff) and how it compares to this information and if there’s been some errors in calculations.”
Mayor Andy Adams said it appears slo-pitch is “the most adversely affected” by the proposed changes, but added that he believed the information presented by Braithwaite was “pretty consistent” with what council was shown and had discussed during a previous Committee of the Whole meeting.
But, he allowed, “that certainly doesn’t make it anymore palatable.”
In the end, council voted to refer the information from the Slo-Pitch League to city staff to look at and report back to council with a comparison between slo-pitch’s figures and the fees city staff are proposing.