Steamboat Springs Fees for some youth sports will go up this spring, a direct result of the city increasing its fees for baseball and soccer fields.
Youth soccer fees could double and Little League fees could go up by as much as 45 percent to cover the costs of the city-imposed user fees. In attempts to cut cost at October's budget hearings, the City Council decided to start charging groups that previously paid nothing or very little to use its fields.
For the Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association, the user fees could cost the group more than $11,000 a year, the city said. Soccer association President Mike DeGroff said those fees could raise the current registration fee from $30 to $60.
More than 500 children are part of the youth soccer association, which starts in the last week of May and runs until the middle of July. That hike could keep children away who would otherwise sign up, said Rick Garth, who is the assistant coaching director.
"In terms of the city balancing the budget on the backs of 6-year-old kids, I have a hard time thinking that is the right thing to do," Garth said.
Little League President Mike McCannon said the city's fees for field use could cost as much as $5,000. And with close to 200 children out for Little League, that would mean an additional $25 per child.
McCannon said Little League could do more fund-raising to lower the cost to $10 per child, but an increase is likely.
"I think a little bit of an increase is not out of the question. My hope is to not have to pass it all on to the parents and family," McCannon said. "We could do a little more fund-raising to offset this."
Right now, baseball players pay $55 for the season. That fee is used for a 10- to 12-week season and spent on uniforms and officiating fees.
The Little League, like youth soccer, had not been paying anything to use the city's fields.
When the city asked all departments to cut their budgets by 2 percent in 2003, Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Chris Wilson said he decided to ask council to increase field fees instead of cutting services.
"For a lot of activities, when things were going strong for a few years, the community said lets go ahead and not charge them," Wilson said. "We looked around and there are very few places that fully subsidized any program. Most people now pay to play, whether it is lifting, football, baseball or soccer."
Wilson said the city has worked out a formula that would roughly charge 25 cents per user per hour for soccer fields and 32 cents per user per hour for baseball fields.
The field fee would apply across the board and would also impact the high school boys and girls lacrosse and soccer teams and boys baseball team. Fees would also change for the adult softball and baseball programs.
Athletic Director Bruce Crowhurst said the school district and city are working out an agreement as they share city and school facilities. But he said some sports, such as the lacrosse teams, which are not funded through school dollars, may have to pay for field time.
After the soccer association raised money to build fields at Heritage Park, Garth questions the city's fees. He said the club raised $80,000 of its own money, the state association chipped in $15,000, Ty Lockhart, who was president of the association at the time, donated land and worked to get state grants. Parents of the association also put in time and labor to build the fields.
"We put in half a million dollars to build the fields and now, after making significant contributions to a recreational amenity, we are being asked that our kids pay to use those recreational amenities," Garth said. "I find it a little unfair."
Wilson said the situation is similar to the group of parents that have worked to upgrade the Howelsen Ice Arena and still pay for ice time. He also said that fees are used for the upkeep and operations of city facilities.
Both McCannon and Garth said they had been warned that fees could be imposed. McCannon said he just wished they could have had time to discuss it.
"The (council) already approved the paid fees. They really didn't give us a chance to discus it," McCannon said.