As it faces a $6 million budget deficit, Mountain View may soon start charging local sports leagues a fee for the use of its playing fields throughout the city.
The city's Parks and Recreation Department surveyed several nearby cities and found that many already charge sports organizations a fee to help offset the costs of field maintenance. The average hourly fee is $6 an hour, said recreation manager Dave Muela.
Letting leagues use the fields for free has "been a longstanding practice in the city," Muela said. "But the financial landscape has changed significantly. There are many municipalities doing this."
The Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled to consider the proposal and recommend an appropriate fee during its Wednesday meeting next week. The meeting is at the Senior Center, 266 Escuela Ave., at 7 p.m.
Organizers of local youth sports leagues are particularly upset by the proposal, which they say could add thousands of dollars to their yearly expenses. Elaine Spence, president of the Mountain View Babe Ruth baseball league, said her players use McKelvey Park about 28 hours a week for eight months out of the year. At $6 an hour, the fee would total about $5,300 a year. Several hundred Babe Ruth players already pay $100 to $300 a year to play, she said, depending on their age.
"We try to keep the fees we charge to the kids low," Spence said, adding that their goal is to "encourage them to come out to play."
In an e-mail, Spence reported that some parents don't think the city should make money off youth sports. Parents voiced concerns last week at a league meeting about the fee, though details on the proposal were not available that time, Spence said. Some parents were worried about the possibility that some players could no longer afford to play.
Spence also said her league already helps to offset field maintenance costs by regularly mowing the infield of the baseball fields it uses. The city still mows the outfields.
The city hosts thousands of Mountain View and Los Altos youths on its fields, all of them playing in various youth sports leagues including three different baseball leagues, a girls' softball league, a football league and two soccer leagues.
After the commission makes a recommendation on exactly how much the fee should be, the City Council will have final say on the matter at a later date.