Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Athletic-field fee increases described as 'backwards'

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A plan to make some recreation groups pay more to rent athletic fields to make up for teams that don't pay is "backwards," according to a local sports organization.

This week, city council rejected a call to reduce the increase in the adult rental fee for athletic fields. This year's operating budget calls for the fee to rent an athletic field to increase to $70 from $34. The extra revenue will be used to hire enforcement staff to find groups who use the fields and don't pay the fee.

Winnipeg spends $1.3 million a year to maintain more than 600 athletic fields and only raises $200,000 from rental fees. The bulk of the fee revenue comes from youth sports, and the city only collects $45,000 from adults.

City administration was not able to provide further details on how many adults do not pay the booking fee or how the enforcement will work.

Football Manitoba executive director Ron East said the fee hike will mostly affect disc sports such as ultimate Frisbee, which have a large number of adult members. His organization rents only a small number of fields for youth flag-football, and youth participants will see their fees rise by $1 per person this year -- a marginal increase, East said.

However, he said it would make more sense to put the additional fee revenue towards maintaining the substandard fields.

"I find it a little bit backwards," East said, noting the fee hike would be easier to swallow if players saw an improvement in the conditions of the fields. "That's almost like the tail wagging the dog. You take money from those of us who are paying fees to catch those who aren't."

Earlier this week, Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports executive director Corey Draper said adult leagues and organizations which routinely rent the fields were not consulted about the fee hike or given any warning about the increase.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2013 A11

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