Pingpong club fights rate hike

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For 20 years, Greg Binsfeld has provided an avenue for area table tennis players to get their serve on during long Routt County winters.

But an increase in the facility use rate, put in place this fall by the Steamboat Springs School District and upheld by the School Board on Monday, could bring an end to Binsfeld's long-standing Steamboat Springs Table Tennis Club.

The rate increase -- a $5-an-hour hike for the use of a large room in the district's George P. Sauer Human Services Center on Seventh Street -- was enacted this fall because previous facility rental rates no longer cover the cost of electricity, said district finance and operations director Dale Mellor. Use of the facility now costs $20 an hour.

Binsfeld's club began 20 years ago when a single pingpong table set up in the basement of a Steamboat home could no longer satisfy the needs of the growing number of people who showed up to play. Now, the club typically meets once a week beginning in mid-September and continuing through the winter and early spring.

"We have nights where we only have three or four people show up," said Binsfeld, a Steamboat resident and math teacher at Soroco High School in Oak Creek. "We also have nights when 10 or 15 people show up, but those nights are few and far between."

Binsfeld charges participants $5 to play for two hours. The money is used to help pay facility costs and the occasional ball and paddle replacement. But the money he collects isn't enough to cover club costs, he said, especially if the club will have to pay an extra $10 per meeting.

"We don't average enough (weekly turnout) to pay them the extra $10 a night," Binsfeld said. Charging club participants more money to cover the costs likely will drive people away, he said.

Last month, Binsfeld appeared before the School Board to ask them to reconsider the rate hike. The board revisited his plea Monday before deciding to uphold the administrative decision to increase the rental rate.

Board member Tami Havener said the district isn't looking to make a profit through its rental rates, but it needs to make sure those rates cover the costs incurred by the school system.

Mellor told School Board members that other clubs and groups that use the facility have agreed to the $5-an-hour increase. He also said rates haven't increased for many years.

Binsfeld said he'll look into the possibility of renting another facility, though he said it's unlikely he'll find one as ideal as the room in the old junior high school.

"It's just such a perfect facility for us," he said.

Binsfeld emphasized his respect for School Board members who volunteer their time to serve the community.

"I think there are very good people making these decisions, I just think they're making the wrong decision," he said.

"To me, it's a community service to have someplace to go on a weeknight in the dark of winter," he said. "There are so many things in Steamboat that cost so much. To have something where you can slap down $5 for good, wholesome fun is a positive thing."

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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