(Panorama of Bar-S fields; photo courtesy West Seattle Little League)
Some sunny Saturday, not that far away, the West Seattle Little League will take the field at Bar-S Playfield. Right now, in addition to dealing with their ongoing Snack Shack project at the field, they are signing up players – and dealing with what WSLL president Mark Terao calls “shocking news”: They’re being asked to pay almost $13,000 in fees to the city this year, up from $5,000 last year, to help balance the city budget.
In a reply to Terao, circulated in a league-wide e-mail, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, who chairs the Parks Committee, says the fee increases – for adult sports as well as youth sports, and other activities – are “unfortunate but necessary.” Tomorrow, WSLL reps are planning to bring their concerns to Bagshaw and Councilmember Sally Clark at a community-conversation event they are hosting on First Hill, and at least one other local youth-sports organization is hoping to do the same – more on that later.
For one example of how the fee increase translates, Terao explains:
“Our Seniors team has roughly 12 players. They play up at Hiawatha and with the new rates the cost per player for just the field use will be $275 per player. We currently charge $140 per player.”
Increased fees were part of the new city budget from the moment Mayor McGinn proposed it last year, up through the City Council’s final approval vote in November, but Terao tells WSB they didn’t get any notice “until we received this year’s schedule … it shocked our board and we had to try and do something.” So they have been going public with their concerns.
You might say, well, you use it, you need to pay your fair share. Terao says it’s not as simple as that – their total contribution may actually exceed that: “I do not believe the Mayor or City Council took in the fact that many leagues such as WSLL and WS Pee Wee use a lot of the registration fees and 100 of volunteer hours to maintain the fields we play on. I find it baffling that they can approve this hike in fees and in the same breath inform us that the services to the parks will also be greatly reduced.” (Another part of the Parks budget, to make up for a deficit that the city’s been warning about, cuts maintenance provided by Parks staff.)
WSLL is making the case that its fees for Bar-S should be waived because of the amount of time and money they are putting into it, but even if they get that waiver, he says it’s a bigger problem, citywide: “We all have to work together to keep youth sports affordable and available to all of our kids in all of Seattle, not just West Seattle.” He points out that the cuts in community-center hours – Alki Community Center, for example, had its hours and staff cut – “the kids are running out of options to stay safe, healthy and out of trouble. I do not know if we will make a difference at this point but we have to try.”
After hearing from Terao, we contacted the West Seattle Soccer Club for comment. Board member Tim McMonigle replied:
From a soccer club standpoint, we were aware of the increase of fees being implemented this year. We understand the concern that Mark and the WSLL club feels because they found out about this after they set their fees and started registration, so it will be much harder for them to recover from the extra cost.
The major users of fields in Seattle (of which the WSSC is one) were not consulted about the fee increase, so a 100% increase of fees for games and an almost 150% increase for our practice time seems unfair for all the reasons Mark mentioned. We serve a very diverse group of kids in West Seattle, and we give out a fair number of scholarships, so this fee increase will hurt those causes. We also perform a lot of our own maintenance on the fields we use (field lining, filling holes, picking up garbage, repairing/replacing nets, etc), so the decrease in services accompanied by an increase in fees does not make sense. We understand the budget issues facing the city, and are willing to help.
On top of that, we have also been told of a new light fee of $20/hour for this year. All of our practice times are at night, and towards the end of the season many of our games are played under the lights. So this will impact our fees dramatically as well. We have met with the city council, and have joined with the Seattle Youth Soccer Association (SYSA) in trying to come up with a compromise to these large increases, specifically the new light fee. We are an all-volunteer club serving 1600 kids in the fall and almost 1000 kids in the spring, so we have no choice but to pass these fees along to our membership. We try our best to keep the experience for our membership a very positive one, but things like these increases are out of our control.
So the WSSC and WSLL have circulated e-mail asking supporters to attend tomorrow’s event with Councilmembers Bagshaw and Clark, which is detailed here – 9 to 11 am at the Corner Cafe, 1000 Madison, on First Hill (here’s a map).