Residents step up to the plate to oppose sports field permit fees

One by one, sports league organizers, coaches, players and parents stood up to express their anger and frustration with the city’s newly-introduced sports field permit fees to the city councillors who were willing to listen.

Henry Dennis, 15, plays baseball with the Scarborough Stingers’ AAA team. He captured the tone of the evening when he got up to the microphone to speak from the heart.

“We just want to play baseball. That’s our main priority here,” Dennis said. “Taxing kids is just not cool.”

Approximately 200 people were in attendance during Tuesday night’s town hall meeting to discuss the fees with the roughly 14 councillors, or their assistants, who showed up.

The fees were passed by city council without debate as part of the 2012 budget. The fees would require children and youth sports leagues to pay an hourly rate of $6 to $12 for use of the city’s sports fields.

We need you councilors to right this wrong.

— Greg Dennis

Andrew Pace, president of the East York Baseball Association, asked councillors to find a way to get rid of the fees when council meets to debate the issue on April 10.

“We need you councillors to right this wrong. We do not have the funds to pay this surprise bill,” Pace said. “We cannot, and will not, be paying the bill. Not just because we don’t think we should, but because we cannot. On April 10, please waive these 2012 fees.”

The primary issues discussed at the meeting included lower income families’ ability to pay the higher fees, the city’s lack of notice or consultation with communities, the maintenance for the fields and the importance in keeping youth active and out of trouble by playing sports.

Greg Dennis, president of the Scarborough Stingers Baseball Club, discusses the impact the sports field permit fees would have on communities like Scarborough.

[audio:http://www.torontoobserver.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Greg-Dennis.mp3]

Greg Dennis, president of the Scarborough Stingers Baseball Club, says that it has been difficult getting the majority of councillors in Scarborough to pay attention and get involved in the matter.

“Many of them have not even taken the time to return emails,” Dennis said. “If that’s the way they believe public service works then they may regret this come the next election. Some of them have been great. The rest of them have been invisible.”

Dennis says if the fees go forward, the extra cost to Stingers’ parents will be over $100 per player. The $1.5 million in expected revenue from the sports field permit fees will go to the city’s general revenue and not towards the maintenance or operation of recreational sports fields.

“We are asking that the city find a way to scrap the permit fees right now and allow us to properly work with the city on what they want to do in the future, which includes whether or not this is even needed in the first place,” Dennis said.