Starting this year, the St. Charles Post 312 American Legion baseball teams will have to come up with an extra $2,000 to play ball in St. Charles parks.
For the first time, the legion teams—and all nonprofit organizations—will have to pay to use St. Charles athletic fields.
The St. Charles Parks and Recreation Board approved a new fee schedule for teams in 2010 and worked to inform the affected teams in 2011. The new fees took effect Jan. 1.
The fees were necessary because the parks department has received many requests to upgrade the fields to improve playing conditions, said Maralee Britton, director of St. Charles Parks and Recreation. She said the parks board has talked about implementing fees for a number of years.
"Our tax revenue has gone down, but that's not necessarily what spurred this," she said. "What brought this on was a lot of our increased desire for field playability and conditions."
Britton is expected to present information about the fees during the St. Charles City Council work session scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Charles City Hall.
The fees are expected to generate about $35,000 next year, which is a small portion of the $261,914 annual cost maintain the fields between materials and labor.
Fees are $14 per game, or a maximum of $70 a day for baseball fields. Football fields cost $45 per game or a max of $225 a day. Teams pay an additional fee per hour to use the lights. Organizations that can prove at least half of their members are from St. Charles city get a 20 percent discount from the fees.
Britton pointed out that St. Charles has been one of the only nearby municipalities to not charge for using fields. Some municipalities, such as Bridgeton, charge as much as $30 to use the field for a softball game. The City of St. Charles School District also charges for use of its athletic fields.
The parks department has some areas in the department that are supported by taxes and by customer revenue. The pools and concessions are supported 100 percent by customer revenue, she said.
"We realize fees are never popular," she said. "It's come to a point in time to look at what we're doing internally and what requests are being received for improvements... We tried to do the best we could for us realizing that the organizations had a responsibility to the players, too."
The fees are a concern for American Legion baseball coach Kurt Denningman, who said historically, the Legion hasn’t charged had to charge local kids to play. The team conducts two fundraisers a year, a trivia night and a golf tournament, and American Legion Post 312 contributes money to the teams.
“We’ll see how the first year goes with (the fees),” he said. “If we can’t come up with the money from the fundraiser to cover it this year, we might have to schedule less games.”
Typically, the varsity team will play 49 games, while the junior varsity team plays 40 and the freshman team plays 35 games, he said.
Denningman said if the city has to charge fees, the money should be put toward improving the fields, which he said are some of the worst in the area.
That’s something the St. Charles Parks Department does intend to do—direct the money from the athletic fees toward improving the athletic fields. The fees will go toward labor, materials and equipment used to maintain and improve the fields.
The city recently assessed the quality of the 42 fields in the park system. Conditions on the fields vary. Some need to be reseeded. and others need total renovation. Britton said it's not clear how much it would cost to make all of the necessary improvements.
The parks department is assessing whether it would be better to contract with a company to make the improvments or buy the equipment and do the work itself, she said.