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Toronto city staff propose new lower sports field fees

June 5, 2012 - News

City of Toronto staff are proposing “nominal” new fees for leagues using sports fields in 2013 after a backlash from kids’ leagues prompted council to cancel higher new fees this year.
A report going to Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee next week proposes fees ranging from $2 per hour to $6 per hour for each child or youth, depending on the quality of the field.
In January, as part of budget deliberations, council quietly passed the introduction of fees (previously the groups could book fields for free) ranging from $6 to $12 per hour, to raise an extra $1.5 million per year.
Leagues for youth baseball, soccer, lacrosse, ball hockey and other sports were blindsided with bills for tens of thousands of dollars. Some said it put their leagues in peril because they had not budgeted for any fees in 2012 and had no way to suddenly charge parents up to $100 per child.
Council backtracked in April, cancelling the 2012 fees and directing staff to widely consult with the sports groups before suggesting fees for next year.
The reduced fees being recommended would generate an extra $650,000 for the city.
Andrew Pace, president of the East York Baseball Association, said Tuesday he had no idea new fees are already on the table. He declined to comment until he has a chance to study the report.
Councillor Paula Fletcher, who helped initiate dialogue with the fee-shocked leagues, said Tuesday that, no matter how Ford’s executive votes next Tuesday, the new fees are not a “done deal.”
“We will consult with as many leagues as possible before executive (committee meeting) and before it goes to council next month,” said Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth). Her office is trying to set up a meeting between councillors and leagues for Sunday afternoon.
Leagues have told the city they don’t want to pay exorbitant fees into general revenues when many of the fields are in very poor shape, she said.
“The message was, ‘If you introduce modest fees, how are you guaranteeing that the money will go to improving these fields?,” she said.
Fletcher said the infield of a baseball field in Greenwood Park is chronically muddy because of the way it is maintained. Other GTA municipalities charge leagues but have specialists grooming and maintaining fields, she added.
The new staff report suggests only steps “to strengthen the city’s partnership with sports organizations and to improve the quality of sports fields and report back to council after the 2013 season.”
Fletcher said that, as well as potentially improving facilities, modest fees would end the practice of leagues block-booking fields and then not using all the time.
— Torstar News Service

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