Parents, organizers upset over outdoor sports field fees

Scarborough parents are feeling outraged as the city of Toronto has begun charging private sports leagues for use of outdoor sports fields.

City council approved the changes as part of its overhaul to the city’s budget. The plan, which kicks into effect immediately, now sees the city rent out the fields to users who have to pay anywhere from $6 to $12 per hour, depending on the quality of the field.

“My kids like going to their house league, but it’s coming to the point where it’s just becoming way too expensive.”

— Mohammed Butt

Mohammed Butt, a Scarborough resident and parent, who has two daughters in private soccer leagues, is upset that it’s becoming more expensive to have kids enjoy organized sports and get their exercise.

“It’s a shame that the city has put the responsibility on the organizers and parents to find a way to make their numbers work. My kids like going to their house league, but it’s coming to the point where it’s just becoming way too expensive.”

Ward 39 Coun. Mike Del Grande sympathizes with parents, but says that maintaining public sports fields can cost the city lots of money. He notes that teams that book only the required amount of time needed for practice and games, will not be paying as much as some estimates have suggested.

“In the past a number of these sports leagues would book a whole Sunday afternoon and maybe use the field for two hours and nobody would be able to use the field before or after them,” said Del Grande. “The fee restricts them from blocking their time to only that which is required.”

He shunned any concerns about low-income families, especially those in Scarborough, not being able to attend private leagues because of increased fees. Del Grande questioned whether these families could already afford the fees before the increase and suggested city-run programs.

Scarborough Stingers coach Greg Dennis explains the need for additional practice time as kids aim for high levels of competition.

[audio:http://www.torontoobserver.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/ad_scarborough-baseball.mp3]

Greg Dennis, head coach of the Scarborough Stingers which play in the Scarborough Baseball Association, balks at such claims. Dennis believes that parents send their kids to his league because it offers the best training possible for future success in baseball unlike the leagues which the city runs. Private leagues have better equipment and dedicated coaches compared to these city-run leagues which often use second hand equipment and volunteer coaches.

“I think [increased fees] hurt. I think it’s going to affect enrollment in baseball in Scarborough and I think it’s going to have a serious effect on our development programs,” Dennis said. “A very nice number of kids come to the Stingers to develop their baseball skills.”

Dennis estimates that because of the new fees the costs for one child to play baseball for the Stingers has jumped from roughly $700 to near $1,000.

Even though the city is committed to collecting these fees, Dennis hopes that city “comes to its senses” and finds a way to scrap the budgetary plan.